Donations to pro-Brexit groups top contributions to Remain campaign
Brexit campaigners received £700,000 more in donations than the Remain camp between February and mid-April, the election watchdog has revealed.
The Electoral Commission today published data showing Leave campaigners attracted £8,180,425 between 1 February and 21 April.
Businessman Peter Hargreaves topped the donors' list with £3.2m for the Leave.EU campaign, while Better for the Country Ltd, the subsidiary of offshore-registered firm STM Fidecs, gave £2m to Grassroots Out.
Meanwhile, Tory MP Peter Bone donated £13,250 to Grassroots Out, despite controversially receiving £21,750 back in payments from the same campaign group, which he co-founded.
Remain campaigners took in £7,458,684, with supermarket tycoon Lord David Sainsbury the biggest contributor with £2,726,954.
Other high-profile Remain donors included banks Morgan Stanley and Citigroup, engineering firm Airbus and peer Lord Matthew Oakeshott.
Official Brexit campaign Vote Leave argued Remain's funding from "big banks" showed the referendum was a fight of “David vs Goliath” proportions.
“With their [banks'] unlimited cash, they are lobbying the British people to act in a way that benefits their profit margin,” former Labour foreign secretary Lord Owen said in a statement.
Leave campaigners have also seized on the Government’s spending of £9.3m on a pro-EU leaflet that went out to UK households, branding it “one-sided propaganda” ahead of the 23 June vote.
Among the figures released today is the further revelation that Leave.EU took £413,500 more than Vote Leave, which was designated the official Brexit campaign towards the end of the period.
And Leave.EU registered some £6m in loans on top of the donations it received.
Meanwhile 11 subsidiaries of Grassroots Out will be struck off the Electoral Commission’s register of campaigners for failing to meet the registration requirements.
They include specific focus groups for Gibraltar, Steel, Students and the LGBT community.
Elsewhere, Leave.EU has been fined £50,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for sending more than 500,000 spam texts.
The ICO said Better for the Country Ltd, which runs the campaign, had broken the law by sending the messages to people without their consent.
Head of enforcement at the ICO, Stephen Eckersley, said: “Political parties and campaign groups must follow the same rules as anyone else.
“That means they must have people’s permission before sending them text messages.
“Better for the Country did not have permission to send these messages. After considering all the options we decided that enforcement action was necessary.”