Washington, D.C.—Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan filed a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for failing to enforce campaign finance disclosure laws against two groups, the American Action Network (AAN) and Americans for Job Security (AJS). Both groups poured massive amounts of dark money into 2010 congressional campaigns across the country.
"The three Republican FEC commissioners think they can simply ignore the laws they don't agree with. The American Action Network and Americans for Job Security have spent millions on electioneering communications, and the public has a right to know who is paying for all those vitriolic ads," Ms. Sloan said.
In 2012, CREW filed complaints with the FEC against AAN and AJS, alleging they had violated campaign finance law by failing to register as political committees and filing required disclosure reports with the FEC. More than two years later, despite a lengthy investigation and findings by the FEC’s general counsel that the two groups had likely violated the law, the three Republican commissioners nevertheless voted to dismiss the complaints, finding no “reason to believe” the organizations violated the FECA’s disclosure provisions.
The three other FEC commissioners disagreed, noting that AAN and AJS had clearly engaged in activity intended to influence federal elections and that with dark money an increasing problem, the FEC should “ensure that voters receive the information they need – the information that the Supreme Court has said they are entitled to – in order to make informed decisions.”
Groups that spend more than $1,000 a year on expenditures and whose major purpose is electing federal candidates must register with the FEC as political committees. AAN and AJS far exceeded the spending trigger in 2010, with AAN spending more than two-thirds of its funds and AJS spending nearly three quarters of its funds on federal elections, making campaigning their major purpose. Political committees must also file periodic reports with the FEC, identifying donors and listing all expenditures. Neither AAN nor AJS complied with these requirements.
Today’s lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges the FEC has violated the Administrative Procedure Act, challenging the dismissals as arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law and the previously stated policies and opinions of the Commission. If CREW and Ms. Sloan prevail in court, the FEC will be required to enforce the law as written by Congress.
"The FEC has given AAN, AJS and all other dark money groups carte blanche to ignore campaign finance laws. It is crystal clear that the only way the FEC is ever going to enforce the law is if a court forces the Commission to do so. Today’s lawsuit gives the courts the chance to set things right."
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