CONTACT: Jordan Libowitz
202-408-5565 | [email protected]
Washington—As part of its effort to fight a new, illegal tactic used by super PACs and wealthy donors to circumvent campaign finance law, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) Friday sued the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) for failing to act for more than two years on complaints against a Democratic and Republican super PAC’s dark money laundering schemes.
In February 2016, CREW filed complaints against the Coalition for Progress, a New Jersey-based group reportedly supporting Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, as well as a sham company used to launder money to the super PAC. The complaint also targeted the donor who attempted to hide their identity. DE First Holdings gave a $1,000,000 contribution to the Coalition for Progress the day after it was formed. As it had no known business activity, it is virtually impossible for that million dollars to have come from the company and not a hidden donor.
“The FEC’s failure to act signals open season for illegal donations to be funneled through bogus companies to get around election law,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “We have to sue the FEC yet again to force them to do their job and to ensure that those who violate the law to keep donors secret are held accountable.”
In December 2015, CREW filed complaints against Right to Rise USA, the main super PAC supporting Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign, its treasurer Charles Spies, and two LLCs as well as one of their apparent owners, alleging that six-figure donations made by the companies to Right to Rise USA were made on behalf of others — a violation of federal law. TH Holdings, whose only known activity is owning a property in the Hamptons, appears to have no income, meaning that the $100,000 it gave Right to Rise USA had to come from another donor. Likewise, Heather Oaks does not have any known business activity and was founded just two weeks before giving Right to Rise USA $100,000, making it highly unlikely that it was able to generate enough income to write that large of a check, again implying that its donation came from another donor.
“Without proper disclosure, voters don’t have the information they need in order to evaluate who is giving huge sums of money to candidates for important offices,” Bookbinder said. “Laundering donations through companies to try to keep donor information secret defeats the purpose of disclosure rules and prevents the public from learning who is trying to influence our elections and our government.”