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U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III's campaign improperly spent $1.5 million earmarked for the general election during the Massachusetts congressman's failed bid to capture the Democratic nomination for a U.S. Senate seat, he said Friday.
Kennedy said in a statement to The Boston Globe that he did not know about the improper spending before the Sept. 1 primary election, and has since reimbursed the campaign with his $1.5 million of his own money. He and his campaign self-reported the violation to the Federal Election Commission last week, he said.
“After an internal review, I believe it was an honest mistake by those involved, resulting from misinformation, not malintent,” Kennedy told the newspaper. “But as the candidate, I take full responsibility for the error that occurred and have worked to rectify it as expeditiously as possible.”
The campaign dipped into the general election funds beginning in August, as incumbent U.S. Sen. Edward Markey closed the polling gap and out-fundraised Kennedy, the newspaper reported. Markey ultimately won the Sept. 1 primary by a margin of nearly 11 points, and Kennedy, the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, became the first of his storied family to lose a Congressional election in Massachusetts.
Federal campaign finance rules do not allow candidates to spend money earmarked for the general election — typically given in advance from individual donors who have already hit the $2,800 limit for the primary, but can give up to $2,800 more for the general election campaign — during primary season.
The Kennedy campaign said two senior officials believed the rules allowed them to spend the general election money if it was paid back with additional contributions after the primary. The campaign argued it had no reason to willingly violate the rules, because Kennedy's personal wealth meant he could have contributed the money if necessary.
FEC rules require losing campaigns to refund donations made for the general election within 60 days of the primary. Kennedy said the campaign has already fully reimbursed donors, ahead of that deadline.
It's unclear how the FEC will respond to the reported violation, as the agency hasn't had enough commissioners to meet since July.
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