September 11, 2017 – CREW filed a motion for summary judgment in its ongoing lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission (FEC) over its refusal to enforce the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) against Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (Crossroads GPS), Steven Law, Karl Rove, Haley Barbour, and Caleb Crosby.
In late July 2012, CREW filed a complaint with the FEC alleging that Crossroads GPS and its agents violated FECA by failing to disclose the names of donors who funded the group’s campaign ads. That includes Crossroads GPS’s failure to disclose a contributor who–as Karl Rove admitted under oath–gave Crossroads GPS more than $3 million to aid the group’s work to elect Josh Mandel, a candidate in the Ohio state Senate race. Crossroads GPS indisputably used that money, and other money it raised from a matching challenge and at a Tampa fundraiser, to fund independent expenditures in the Ohio race and in other various Senate races. The independent expenditures included ads asking viewers to vote for or vote against a targeted candidate. However, although these were political ads, Crossroads GPS did not disclose a single contributor. In November 2012, CREW submitted an amended complaint.
On March 7, 2014, the FEC’s Office of General Counsel issued its First General Counsel’s Report on CREW’s complaint, which conceded that Crossroads GPS did not fulfill FECA’s disclosure requirements for independent expenditures. Nonetheless, it found that the agency was bound by an old FEC regulation–regulation 11 C.F.R. § 109.10(e)(1)(vi), which was adopted without any explanation long before the days of dark money–that narrowed the disclosure required such that it becomes legal to hide certain political spending. The FEC General Counsel also recognized that another subsection of the FECA required “additional” reporting, which Crossroads GPS also did not comply with, but nonetheless recommended excusing Crossroads GPS from compliance.
On November 17, 2015, the FEC deadlocked three-to-three on whether to find reason to believe that Crossroads GPS violated FECA, and deadlocked on whether to close the file on Mr. Law, Mr. Rove, Mr. Barbour, and Mr. Crosby, leading the Commission to dismiss CREW’s complaint.
On February 16, 2016, CREW filed a lawsuit against the FEC for dismissing CREW’s complaint on unlawful grounds. The FEC and Crossroads GPS moved to dismiss the lawsuit, but on March 22, 2017 the District Court ruled against the motion to dismiss, allowing the case to go forward.
CREW seeks summary judgment declaring that the FEC’s failure to enforce the law against Crossroads GPS and its agents was contrary to law, as well as an order declaring as invalid and vacating 11 C.F.R. § 109.10(e)(1)(vi) as inconsistent with the FECA and unlawful under the APA.