Alexandria, VA – Today the Federal Election Commission (FEC) agreed to produce a controversial agency report to settle a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit the Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) brought against the agency. The document sets out the FEC Office of General Counsel’s original analysis concerning a complaint against Crossroads GPS that was dismissed by the FEC in 2013.
CCP had requested the document last year, and after being denied by the agency, filed an appeal in federal court. Last week, a federal court ordered the FEC to produce the report in a related case, Public Citizen v. FEC, making it highly improbable that the Commission would succeed in its opposition to CCP’s FOIA request.
The document was released to CCP Friday afternoon and is now available to the public on its website here.
“We are pleased that the FEC finally decided to turn over the unredacted decision that we had requested relating to Crossroads GPS,” said CCP President David Keating. “It’s critical that reports like this are made available so the public can understand how to comply with the byzantine rules and regulations created by the speech police at the Commission.”
Typically, when the FEC’s General Counsel reviews a complaint alleging a violation of campaign finance law, a First General Counsel’s Report is distributed to the Commission. As a matter of longstanding policy, the FEC releases that document pursuant to regulations requiring “the fullest possible disclosure of records to the public.”
The FEC refused to follow this practice after the Commission determined that Crossroads GPS, a § 501(c)(4) organization, 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. They sought to disclose the first version by attaching it to the statement of reasons explaining their vote to dismiss the complaint. However, because of a dispute within the Commission, the public version of that 75-page document contained only one word: “redacted.” CCP then filed a FOIA request for the report, which was denied.
The two documents contain different legal tests proposed by the FEC’s General Counsel to determine if an organization must register as a political committee. By not releasing the report, the FEC hid a possible change in policy from organizations seeking to comply with the FEC’s interpretation of federal law.