Brexit advocacy group fined £61,000 for breaking election laws

Vote Leave [advocacy website], an advocacy group spearheading the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, was fined £61,000 and referred to authorities by the country’s Electoral Commission [official website] on Tuesday for breaking electoral laws during the 2016 referendum.

In an official statement [press release], the Commission stated that it had obtained evidence that Vote Leave exceeded its legal spending limit of  £7 million by almost  £500,000 and turned in an incomplete and inaccurate spending report, as required under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 [materials]. The Commission also uncovered evidence that Vote Leave channeled money to a Canadian data firm, AggregateIQ [corporate website], to target political advertisements on Facebook thorough seperate campaign group, BeLeave, and its founder Darren Grimes, which was never declared by Vote Leave.

A report [text, PDF] of the Commission’s finding was also released to the public, detailing the charges and evidence gathered against the advocacy groups.

The Electoral Commission Director of Political Finance and Regulation & Legal Counsel, Bob Posner, was quoted in the press release:

The Electoral Commission has followed the evidence and conducted a thorough investigation into spending and campaigning carried out by Vote Leave and BeLeave. We found substantial evidence that the two groups worked to a common plan, did not declare their joint working and did not adhere to the legal spending limits. These are serious breaches of the laws put in place by Parliament to ensure fairness and transparency at elections and referendums. Our findings relate primarily to the organisation which put itself forward as fit to be the designated campaigner for the ‘leave’ outcome…Vote Leave has resisted our investigation from the start, including contesting our right as the statutory regulator to open the investigation. It has refused to cooperate, refused our requests to put forward a representative for interview, and forced us to use our legal powers to compel it to provide evidence. Nevertheless, the evidence we have found is clear and substantial, and can now be seen in our report.

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