Legal Filings

Legal Filings
Aug 11, 2010

CREW v. FEC (Dismissing Complaints Without Explanation)

Today Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan filed suit against the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, CREW v. Fed. Election Comm’n (D.D.C.). The suit seeks to end the FEC’s practice of summarily dismissing complaints without explanation, leaving complainants insufficient information to sue the agency for failing to enforce campaign finance laws.

For the past two years, the FEC has demonstrated a pattern and practice of dismissing complaints because the Republican and Democratic commissioners are deadlocked 3 to 3, particularly in controversial cases. In such cases, the law gives complainants 60 days to file suit in federal court asking for judicial review of the dismissals. But because the FEC frequently fails to provide a rationale for its decision before the 60 days expire, complainants cannot file a lawsuit in which they would have to explain how or why the FEC erred.

“The gridlock at the FEC makes the Senate look high-functioning in comparison,” said Ms. Sloan. “The FEC is clearly a broken agency. Instead of ensuring fair elections in which all players follow the rules, too often commissioners refuse to act, and then, refuse to even explain why they failed to act. This leaves Americans in the dark, with no legal remedy. Even worse, candidates can freely break campaign finance laws to gain an edge in a federal election without any fear of repercussions.”

CREW and Ms. Sloan are seeking a declaratory judgment that the FEC’s actions are arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law. They are seeking an injunction to compel the FEC to provide explanations for dismissal within the 60 day statute of limitations so complainants can seek judicial review.

“The FEC is deliberately manipulating the law to conceal its decisions in the hopes of running out the clock on any potential appeals of its decisions. This is wrong, and it must stop,” added Ms. Sloan.


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