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Bacardi USA accidentally reports $17,000 in illegal campaign contributions, blames 'administrative error'


When it comes to donating money to federal campaigns, a few basic tenets are well-known to the country's many corporations: thou shalt give early and often -- just not directly from the company.

For Bacardi, a 150-year-old wine and spirits producer that does in excess of $4 billion in annual sales, these rules are not unknown. The company, with headquarters in Bermuda and Coral Gables, has given a healthy-though-hardly-prolific $140,000 over the last decade through its Bacardi USA Inc. political action committee, tied to the company's import, sales and marketing arm.

The political committee is key, since federal law bans companies from giving directly to federal campaigns. Violations can draw the ire of the Federal Elections Commission, and lead to civil penalties.

And so, it was a bit odd to see Bacardi USA (Now Bacardi North America) file a federal disclosure form Monday reporting $17,000 in seemingly illegal contributions. The form, filled out by lobbyist Kristin Bodenstedt, appears to explain that the company itself gave to 15 federal candidates, including $2,000 a piece to the campaigns of U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, $2,000 to Congressman Carlos Curbelo, and $500 to Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, among others.

So what gives?

Bodenstedt declined to comment when reached by phone, and referred questions to Bacardi spokeswoman Amy Federman, who in a text message said Bacardi complied with federal law in 2016, and blamed the discrepancy on an "administrative error." (Bacardi's PAC lists the payments in its federal reports.)

"Seems the filed form dropped the affiliated PAC so it is just an administrative error," Federman wrote in a text message. "It will be fixed tonight."