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Sanders says Clinton violated campaign spending laws (+video)

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Lucas Jackson/Reuters

(Read caption) Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign rally at Hunter's Point in the Queens borough of New York City on Monday.

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US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders accused fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton of apparent campaign finance violations Monday, the day before a potentially critical primary vote in New York.

The allegations centered on the use of funds from a joint fundraising initiative between the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC), questioning whether DNC dollars excessively contributed to financial compensation for Clinton staffers.

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Accusations of campaign finance shenanigans have long formed part of the narrative underscoring the tussles between the two Democratic candidates, and this latest episode enters the stage shortly before the Empire State goes to the polls Tuesday, in a contest that promises a substantial number of delegates for Democrats and Republicans alike.

"While the use of joint fundraising agreements has existed for some time – it is unprecedented for the DNC to allow a joint committee to be exploited to the benefit of one candidate in the midst of a contested nominating contest," said Jeff Weaver, Mr. Sanders' campaign manager, in a statement.

Senator Sanders, who until last year identified as an independent, has long espoused the view that the DNC favors Mrs. Clinton.

A letter from Sanders campaign attorney Brad Deutsch to US Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the DNC, pointed out that Clinton's campaign is legally permitted to accept individual donations of no more than $2,700, whereas the DNC's limit is $356,100, and raised concerns that this arrangement has been breached.

The accusations boil down to a suggestion that, together, the DNC and Clinton's campaign have skirted legal limits in such a way as benefits the former Secretary of State's presidential bid.

"Now that we know this activity has not only continued but has grown to staggering magnitudes, it can no longer be ignored," writes Mr. Deutsch.

Both frontrunners for the presidential nomination – Clinton for the Democrats and Donald Trump for the Republicans – have suffered setbacks in recent weeks as Sanders has won various states and as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has started gaining on Mr. Trump in the GOP contest.

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New York, which provides 247 Democratic delegates, and 95 for the Republicans, has the power to shift momentum of the race yet again.

Over the weekend, Sanders cast further aspersions on his rival's financing efforts as both he and Clinton pursued New York's black vote.

Sanders has financed his campaign largely by low-dollar online fundraisers, and has managed to raise more money in each of the past three months than his rival Clinton.

Clinton, for her part, spent time in San Francisco this weekend, where Hollywood star George Clooney hosted two fundraisers on her behalf, with tickets commanding as much as $353,000 per couple, an amount that Mr. Clooney himself described as an "obscene amount of money."