The campaign of Joseph P. Kennedy III acknowledged Friday that it improperly spent $1.5 million in donations during the congressman's contentious and failed Democratic primary challenge to U.S. Sen. Edward J. Markey.

Federal campaign finance rules prohibit candidates from using general election campaign funds on primary expenses. Individuals may donate up to $2,800 to a primary campaign and another $2,800 to a candidate's general election bid. Money from Kennedy's general election fund was spent on the primary, starting in late August.

Kennedy said he reimbursed his campaign with $1.5 million of his own money in late September, and that all general election donors have been reimbursed, as required by the Federal Election Commission.

In a statement to The Boston Globe, Kennedy said he had not been aware that his primary campaign was spending general election funds. He said the improper spending came to his attention shortly after the Sept. 1 election. Kennedy said he and his campaign self-reported the violation to the FEC last week after conducting a review.

Mary Serreze/Townsquare Media
Mary Serreze/Townsquare Media

“After an internal review, I believe it was an honest mistake by those involved, resulting from misinformation, not malintent,” Kennedy said. “But as the candidate, I take full responsibility for the error that occurred and have worked to rectify it as expeditiously as possible.”

Kennedy's campaign’s counsel, a Washington, D.C.-based law firm, conducted the internal review to document the improper spending once it came to light.

“I apologize for — and deeply regret — the error and believe that strict transparency and accountability in campaign finance are the cornerstone of fair elections," Kennedy continued. "I have taken these rules seriously my entire career and remain as committed as ever to the cause of electoral integrity — particularly at this moment in time.”

The campaign blamed the problem on campaign manager Nick Clemons and treasurer Gemma Martin. The two believed that FEC rules would let them spend general election money if it was paid back with additional contributions after the primary, the campaign said, adding that Martin and Clemons are no longer associated with the campaign or with Kennedy.

Statewide, Markey trounced Kennedy in the Sept. 1 primary. However, Kennedy dominated in Bristol County, taking 62 percent of the vote.

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