CONTACT: Jordan Libowitz
202-408-5565 | [email protected]
Washington—A federal judge today granted Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) summary judgement in its landmark case against the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the second time the Court has ruled against the FEC for dismissing CREW’s complaint against a dark money group that spent millions in federal elections.
Judge Christopher Cooper ruled in September 2016 that the FEC acted “contrary to law” by dismissing a complaint against American Action Network (AAN), which spent millions on ads without revealing its donors, finding that the FEC’s analysis “blinks reality” and returning the case to the FEC to correct its error. Nevertheless, the three Republican commissioners once again blocked action against the organization, leading Judge Cooper today to correct the commissioners on their continued failure to follow the law.
This decision will have a major impact on disclosure by dark money groups, as the FEC can no longer ignore organizations’ spending on ads that air just before an election that try to hide their political purposes behind a sham “call” for viewers to contact their representatives about legislation.
“This decision marks a major victory not just for CREW but for believers in an open and transparent political process,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “We hope to see a major change in the way the FEC approaches investigations of nonprofit organizations engaged in politics.”
The case revolves around clearly political ads aired by AAN which the FEC decided were not meant to influence an election. The judge wrote in the first decision that “it blinks reality to conclude that many of the ads considered by the Commissioners in this case were not designed to influence the election or defeat of a particular candidate.” Yet the FEC still failed to act. The judge wrote in today’s decision, “The controlling Commissioners did not find that this ad (nor any others mentioning healthcare) had an election-related purpose…Seriously?”
“It’s a shame we have to keep taking the FEC to court to make it do its job,” Bookbinder said. “Unfortunately, they have given us no other choice. If they do not want to keep losing in court, they should start enforcing the law.”