The Federal Election Commission failed to enforce the law against a dark money group, Citizens for a Working America, Inc., that illegally hid the source of millions spent in elections through super PACs, according to a lawsuit filed today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington on behalf of two voters.
The FEC’s failure to act continues to deprive the public of financial disclosure information they are entitled to under the law, including the donors to politically active groups like Citizens for a Working America. Often, the FEC wrongly dismisses investigations or, as happened with Citizens for a Working America, simply doesn’t act at all on well-substantiated allegations. In either case, however, a court can order the FEC to correct its error and, failing that, let complainants sue the dark money group and its agents directly to protect themselves.
“Dark money groups spend millions on elections but fail to disclose their donors as required by law, and they make matters worse by laundering funds through super PACs. The FEC has returned to its habit of inaction, and complaints such as this have languished in front of them for more than a year without any action,” said CREW President Noah Bookbinder. “Campaign finance laws are meant to ensure transparency in elections so that voters can make a decision based on all the facts, and the FEC’s failure to take action on the outstanding complaint against Citizens for a Working America and its agents for their political activities leaves voters in the dark.”
In November 2020, CREW filed a complaint with the FEC providing proof that Citizens for a Working America contributed more than $5 million to various super PACs in 2017 and 2018 to fund the super PACs’ campaign activities, without disclosing the source of its funds. Those donations amounted to over 66% of Citizens for Working America’s total spending. Although Citizens for a Working America dissolved around the time of CREW’s 2020 complaint, the group’s agents—including the former political director of the Republican National Committee—are connected to a web of other dark money groups and could be ordered to fulfill Citizens for a Working America’s disclosure obligations.
“By ignoring the matters in front of them, the FEC has essentially signaled to dark money groups and the people who run them that they can get away with the same secret and lawless behavior,” said Bookbinder. “Our actions today against the FEC will force them to address how their inability to act harms voters and infringes on their constitutional right to make an informed voting decision. ”
November 9, 2021