FEC ignores its own policy in Crossroads GPS complaint
For Release: April 4, 2014 Contact: Joe Trotter Phone: 210-352-0055 (Cell)
Alexandria, Va. –– The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) today announced it has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) seeking a controversial agency document related to a complaint against Crossroads GPS that was dismissed by the FEC.
“It’s outrageous that the FEC ignored its own policies and regulations that require this document to be disclosed,” said CCP president David Keating. “The three Democratic commissioners who voted to ignore these policies claim to favor disclosure. By making this request, we hope these commissioners will change their minds and vote to disclose the document as required by the Commission’s regulations and FOIA itself.”
Typically, when the FEC’s General Counsel recommends whether to find reason to believe a violation of the federal election laws has occurred, a First General Counsel’s Report is distributed to the Commission. As a matter of longstanding policy, consistent with federal regulations which provide that the FEC “will make the fullest possible disclosure of records to the public,” the FEC has made First General Counsel’s Reports public.
The FEC abandoned this practice after the Commission determined that a § 501(c)(4) organization, Crossroads GPS, had not run afoul of federal campaign finance rules. According to the three Republican FEC commissioners, there were two versions of the First General Counsel’s Report and they sought to disclose the other version by attaching it to their statement of reasons on their vote on the complaint. The attached 75-page document only had the words “redacted” on each page.
The two documents have unknown differences in the legal test used by the FEC’s General Counsel to determine if an organization must register as a political action committee. By not releasing the report, the FEC has hidden this possible change from organizations seeking to comply with the FEC’s interpretation of federal law.
“The FEC has a longstanding policy of approving FOIA requests for First General Counsel Reports that are not already published,” said Legal Director Allen Dickerson. “The legal analysis of the General Counsel’s office, which has the ability to initiate investigations and audits, is of great importance to the regulated community. We hope that the FEC will act expeditiously to grant this request.”
Under FOIA law, the FEC has twenty days to reply before a lawsuit can be filed to compel disclosure of the document.
The Center for Competitive Politics promotes and defends the First Amendment’s protection of the political rights of speech, assembly, and petition. It is the nation’s largest organization dedicated solely to protecting First Amendment political rights.