There are just two catches. One: No one's ever thrown the book at an American for purchasing merchandise from a campaign, then giving it to a foreigner as a gift. Two: The person who takes the Canadian's money and gives it to the Clinton campaign is the Project Veritas Action journalist. The Clinton campaign, which has leaked evidence of other PVA stings to journalists, is gleefully brushing this one off.
The video, which will be unveiled by O'Keefe at a news conference today, reports on what happened when an undercover PVA reporter went to the merchandise line at Hillary Clinton's campaign launch. According to O'Keefe, the reporter simply happened to be near a woman from Montreal who encountered a problem when trying to buy some trinkets.
"She's Canadian and so we can't take it," says Molly Barker, the director of marketing for the campaign.
"Do you have a green card or U.S. passport?" asks Erin Tibe, the campaign's compliance manager.
"No, why would I?" says the tourist. "I'm Canadian."
Tibe explains the law. "We can't take contributions from anyone that is not a citizen of the United States," she says.
At this point, the PVA journalist interjects on behalf of the Canadian.
"She traveled all the way from Canada to support Hillary," she says. "You could give her [something], she's paying cash."
The money only exchanged hands after the Canadian suggested that PVA's journalist -- who, according to O'Keefe, had never met this woman -- could make the $75 buy.
"Canadians can't buy them, but Americans can buy it for them?" asks the journalist.
"Not technically," says Barker. "You would just be making the donation."
At this point in PVA's video, O'Keefe says that "not technically means not legally," and that -- abetted by PVA's journalist -- the Clinton campaign broke the law. "The FEC prohibits contributions by foreign nationals to campaigns 'directly or indirectly,'" says O'Keefe. "The law also prohibits making and accepting contributions in the name of another person."
Reached Monday night, the Clinton campaign said that PVA had simply misunderstood the law. While it prevents foreign nationals from laundering direct campaign donations, it has never been used to go after someone for giving swag to a foreign friend.
“This video shows a Project Veritas operative yet again unsuccessfully trying to entrap campaign staffers who very clearly rejected any foreign donation," said Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign. "Our staffers understand and follow the law, as demonstrated even in their selectively edited video. Project Veritas, on the other hand, has been caught trying to commit fraud, falsify identities and break campaign finance law — not surprising, given that their founder has already been convicted for efforts like this."
Daniel Pollack, director of communications at Project Veritas, argued that the on-camera swag exchange was part of a Clinton scandal continuum, comparable to the stories about foreign businessmen donating to Bill Clinton's foundation and expecting something from Hillary Clinton's State Department.
"Are foreign nationals going to donate money and expect certain contracts with us?" he asked. "If we do get rid of campaign donation limits, as the Supreme Court might be moving toward, what's stopping a Saudi Arabian sheik from donating $25 million."
Pollack also argued that the PVA journalist's role was immaterial to the story. "Had she not been there," he said, "the Canadian woman very well might have asked nicely, and they would have said, 'sure.' We don't know what course this would have taken had our journalist not been there."
O'Keefe, who will hold a news conference at 10 a.m. today, insisted that the Clinton campaign was dissembling about the video. "Once again, the Clinton campaign is very clearly lying to the American people," O'Keefe told The Washington Post. "One of Hillary’s top staffers, her director of marketing, very clearly accepted a foreign contribution. Hillary and her staffers may indeed understand the law, which makes it that much worse when they are caught violating it."