Congress was in recess yet again, so it was quiet on the congressional front. CREW, however, spent the week making headlines. Here’s a recap.
CREW’s FOIA Win
The D.C. Circuit handed CREW a big win in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit we brought against the Federal Election Commission (FEC). At issue was the meaning of the requirement that agencies make a “determination” within 20 days of a FOIA request. The FEC, joined by the Department of Justice, argued all an agency need do under this provision is advise the requester of its intent to respond at some future date by producing non-exempt documents and claiming exemptions. Siding with CREW, the D.C. Circuit disagreed, unanimously holding that if government agencies do not tell requesters whether they will fulfill the request within 20 days, requestors may sue the agency immediately without filing an administrative appeal. For more details, click here.
Calling Out Dark Money
On Wednesday, CREW called on the FEC to investigate whether a shady group named Checks and Balances for Economic Growth (CBEG) violated campaign finance laws. Despite spending at least $896,290 broadcasting two political ads attacking President Obama and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) just before last year’s election, CBEG failed to file any of the required campaign finance disclosure reports. You can read more about the complaint, as well as a related complaint we filed with the IRS, here.
GAO Misses the Mark on Political Intelligence
The General Accountability Office (GAO) released its long awaited report on the shadowy world of political intelligence firms. The GAO report was requested as part of the STOCK Act enacted last year in effort to better understand the industry. Unfortunately, the report did little to answer questions concerning the scope and influence of the industry, despite a widespread belief it is flourishing and clients are reaping benefits in the stock market. In CREW’s view, the report’s biggest shortcoming is its lack of input from congressional and agency staff.
Post Weighs in on OLC Memos
For your editorial of the week, check out the Washington Post’s excellent piece calling on the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) to publicly release its legal memoranda, as CREW has long urged. The editorial highlights a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Justice seeking an OLC memo authorizing the FBI to surveil Americans without a warrant and approvingly cites an amicus brief written by CREW and submitted on behalf of several other organizations, including the Post. CREW argues the public has a critical interest in knowing how the executive branch interprets the law.
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