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No action against Swiss billionaire Hansjarg Weiss


No Actions: US Election Commission Clears Swiss Billionaire Hansjörg Weiss

The supervisory authority rejects allegations that former businessman Hansjörg Wyss deliberately violated regulations on financing US election campaigns.

Hansjörg Wyss, during an event in his hometown of Bern last month, estimated his net worth to be more than $5 billion.

Peter Clouncer / Keystone

Win for Hansjörg Wyss: The Swiss billionaire, who has lived in the US for decades, has not violated US election campaign laws. The FEC (Federal Election Commission), which is responsible for overseeing complex financial rules for national elections, rejected a civil law submission by an interest group a few days ago. He said Wyss was deliberately circumventing the ban on donations to foreigners with the help of a network of non-profit organizations and groups.

Weiss, who by his own accounts still holds Swiss citizenship and does not have a US green card, has risen to become one of the most influential American philanthropists in recent years. In America, the 86-year-old is usually assigned to the left camp because of his organizations commitment to protecting the climate and overcoming social inequalities.

The conservative group Americans for Public Trust (APT) said Wyss also illegally interfered in election campaigns by distributing money to politically motivated organizations through its umbrella organizations, the Wyss Foundation and the Berger Action Fund. After investigating the flow of money between the individual groups, the FEC unanimously rejected the charge by a vote of 6 to 0.

Deadlock on vote on Vice donations

The vote was unclear on implicit allegations that Weiss and his network of charities circumvented a ban on donations from foreigners. Three Republican commissioners urged the FEC to investigate the allegations more closely. Three Democrats voted no. The proposal was rejected because the Election Commission’s rules, which include equality, provide for a non-partisan majority.

From 1990 to 2003, Wise donated a total of about $69,000 directly to politicians in the United States, mainly to Democrats in the western part of the country, FEC prosecutors found. Saurav Ghosh, who works at the independent group Campaign Law Centre, says the statute of limitations for civil or criminal actions for such violations has long expired.

A spokeswoman for the Wyss Foundation said it was satisfied with the FEC’s decision. He said the submission to the Election Campaign Commission was “politically motivated”. APT, in turn, announced that it will continue to monitor Wyss’ fundraising activities. However, Ghosh estimates that the process is unlikely to run again. A new submission “without new evidence” is a waste of time, says former FEC employee.