I read this in an article from Market Watch: "Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders will take time off the campaign trail ahead of the critical New York primary for a trip to the Vatican next week, his campaign said Friday.

The Vermont senator will participate in a conference on social, economic and environmental issues April 15, alongside Bolivian President Evo Morales, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa and others, his campaign and the Vatican said."

And this statement was in ABC news: "The trip was organized and paid for by Sanders’ campaign."

Isn't there a clear violation of the use of campaign funds here? I know there is probably a sort of gray area as to whether the conference is considered campaigning, but doesn't his campaign stating that it was "time off the campaign trail" point to a violation?

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    It seems pretty clear to me that creating positive press, and establishing foreign relations ties is campaigning. There's a lot of Catholics in the US, and going to the Vatican to attend a conference does just that. Presidential candidates visit foreign nations as part of campaigns all the time. Ben Carson went to Israel for instance. Apr 22, 2016 at 14:25

2 Answers 2



First, even if he wasn't campaigning in Rome, he was campaigning where he was before and after the trip. So he could argue that the travel was campaign related from that alone.

Second, he may well have received a campaign benefit from going to the Vatican. It certainly got him a lot of "free" media before, during, and after the trip.

Third, Donald Trump pays his own company for his travel with campaign funds, which is directly against the rules. Yet no one is trying to prosecute him. It's difficult to prosecute people for campaign finance violations.

Fourth, it is far more likely that the FEC would simply make Sanders pay his campaign back if they did find wrongdoing. They haven't recommended prosecution since 2008.

It would be trivial to argue that his campaign benefited from his trip even if he was not on the "campaign trail". I doubt that it will receive serious consideration. It seems more like a bad choice of words (possibly by the reporter; note that it wasn't quoted) than a serious campaign violation.

Although it is interesting to see how he has been treated versus Marlin Stutzman. Sanders could easily justify his campaign paying for his own travel and possibly his spouse's, but what about that of the other eight members of his family?

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    I edited the header to match the question title.
    – Brythan
    Apr 22, 2016 at 18:54

Looks like new info from the FEC is available and shows he did illegally use campaign funds to take extended family to Italy.

"FEC reports provide evidence that Bernie Sanders illegally used campaign funds for his overnight stay in Italy with 10 family members. Lodging at the 5-star luxury Hotel Boscolo Exedra in Rome, Italy was billed to the campaign in the amount of $13,758."

I doubt he will be prosecuted. He can pay the money back. Will be interesting to find out how this is handled along with Trump's violations which I haven't seen reports of yet. More info at this link:


  • This answer is misleading—the FEC disclosure only shows he used the funds; "illegally" is editorialization from a pro-Hillary website, which no longer exists (wayback machine).
    – Kevin
    Feb 23, 2019 at 17:59

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