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July 19, 2018

Mexico's leftist election winners to appeal campaign funding fine

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Mexico's leftist election winners to appeal campaign funding fine
Mexico's president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador holds a news conference at the campaign headquarters in Mexico City

By Suman Naishadham

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's political party said on Wednesday it would appeal a $10 million fine from the National Electoral Institute (INE) for breaking campaign finance rules.

INE voted 10-1 in favor of fining the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) 197 million pesos, the largest penalty of the election season that concluded with a presidential landslide for leftist Lopez Obrador and a majority for his party in Congress.

The fine is over a trust created by MORENA last year, which the party said went to helping earthquake victims. But INE said that MORENA was opaque about the money that came in and out and that it broke the rules.

"This authority found profound irregularities," INE board member Ciro Murayama said. "INE told the political parties that it wasn't legal for them to give out money directly."

The fine is almost as much as the 207.5 million pesos that MORENA received in public financing for its campaign in the 2018 election season.

Horacio Duarte, MORENA's representative at the institute, said the party did not break the law and accused some INE board members of pushing a political agenda.

He said the party would take up the fine with Mexico's electoral tribunal to appeal the decision.

According to INE, MORENA did not report forming the trust, known as "For the Others" for which it raised 78.8 million pesos ($4 million) through checks, cash deposits, and bank transfers. It said it also could not track where money withdrawn went.

INE also fined the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) 36.5 million pesos for deducting money from workers' salaries in the state of Chihuahua that was later funneled into the party.

The National Action Party (PAN) was fined 3 million pesos for receiving funds during the 2018 presidential election from private companies, which is illegal in Mexico.

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