Update: CREW and the Federal Elections Commission have agreed to dismiss this lawsuit following notice that the FEC reached a conciliation agreement with AJS, requiring them to register as a political committee and disclose their donors. This is the first major release of dark money sources in the post-Citizens United era. Read the stipulation of dismissal below.
CREW and its executive director, Noah Bookbinder, sued the Federal Election Commission (FEC) today for its failure to act on CREW’s complaints against Americans for Job Security (AJS) for violating the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). The FEC failed to resolve the original complaint, which was filed more than six years ago, and failed to act on an amended complaint, filed more than 120 days ago.
AJS is a Virginia-based dark money group that spent millions of dollars on political ads during the 2010 elections. AJS’ extensive spending on federal campaign activities qualifies it as a political committee under the FECA, yet the group failed both to register as a political committee and to file the required disclosure reports with the FEC.
CREW filed its initial complaint against the group in 2012 for its failure to register as a political committee. It was dismissed. Following extensive litigation, Judge Christopher Cooper found that the dismissal of CREW’s initial complaint was contrary to law and remanded the action to the FEC for reconsideration in 2016. CREW then filed an amended administrative complaint on March 20, 2018.
The FEC has still not reached or made public a final decision on this matter over six years after receiving the initial administrative complaint. It has been nearly two years since Judge Cooper’s decision to remand the initial complaint to the FEC and more than 120 days since the filing of the amended administrative complaint.
Such multi-year delays undermine the FEC’s ability to carry out its job, as well as CREW’s ability to access the information that it is entitled to under the FECA. The five-year statute of limitations constrains the FEC’s enforcement, as after the statute has run out, the FEC can no longer issue fines, and dark money groups like AJS end up facing no consequences for their failure to comply with the FECA. Not only does the clock run out, but documents relevant to the case may be destroyed or lost, and witness memories may fade, hampering CREW’s ability to pursue litigation.
The FEC’s failure to act has allowed AJS to continue to keep information confidential that it was required to disclose. It is in the public interest for the FEC to conduct thorough investigation of complaints like this one and to take timely enforcement action.