Center files appeal with FEC to release counsel’s report

For Release: April 29, 2014   Contact: Joe Trotter   Phone: 210-352-0055 (Cell)

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) filed an appeal today with the Federal Election Commission (“FEC”) after a Commission’s staff member denied the group’s request for release of a controversial agency document related to a complaint against Crossroads GPS that was dismissed by the FEC.

The FEC staffer informed CCP that release of the full Report, which contains information about the legal test used by the FEC’s General Counsel to determine if an organization must register as a political action committee, would “include[] information…that if disclosed could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law.” In other words, merely knowing what the law is might risk its circumvention. The staffer also claimed the information was privileged and thus exempt from disclosure.

“This is absurd,” said CCP president David Keating. “Groups have a right to know how the General Counsel’s office thinks PAC status should be determined so they can comply with the law.  We are disappointed that the FEC continues to ignore its own policies and regulations that require this document to be disclosed.

“The privilege claim is also defies belief,” Keating said, noting that three FEC commissioners publicly stated that the document was “clearly prepared with an expectation that it would be reviewed by Commissioners and the general public, per Commission policy and practice.”

CCP’s appeal also says that “the Commission originally redacted the Report in its entirety. Even if the Commission believes that certain portions of the Report are exempt, even the release of a partially unredacted document would further the public interest.”

Not a single word was published on the redacted document.

As a longstanding matter of FEC policy and regulations, First General Counsel’s Reports are routinely disclosed to the public. Indeed, the FEC’s Office of General Counsel itself has stated that “making these documents available to the public promotes compliance by giving practitioners the fullest possible education about how the Commission arrived at the outcomes of particular cases” and such disclosure “enables the public to…reassure themselves that the administration of those laws is being conducted in a fair, consistent, and nonpartisan manner.”

CCP’s request to the FEC for “an unredacted copy of the First General Counsel’s Report, dated June 22, 2011, in the matter of Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (MUR 6396),” was originally made on April 3.

CCP’s appeal now heads to the full Commission, which “will make a determination with respect to any appeal within twenty days.” If CCP’s appeal is rejected, the Center has the option to sue the Commission under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). FOIA law provides for awarding attorney fees and other litigation costs when a plaintiff substantially prevails.

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  1. […] CCP: “The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) filed an appeal today with the Federal Election Commission (“FEC”) after a Commission’s staff member denied the group’s request for release of a controversial agency document related to a complaint against Crossroads GPS that was dismissed by the FEC.” […]