CONTACT: Jordan Libowitz
202-408-5565 | [email protected]
Washington — A federal judge just ruled that Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) v. American Action Network (AAN) can proceed, issuing the first ever ruling on a motion to dismiss on a citizen suit brought under the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA).
In a historic legal action, CREW last year used a provision of the FECA to directly sue AAN after the Federal Election Commission (FEC) failed to enforce the law itself. As now-FEC Chair Ellen L. Weintraub previously wrote, “In the 44-year history of the FEC, this provision has never been fully utilized.” Judge Christopher Cooper’s decision ensures that it will be.
“This is a historic day for anyone concerned about money in politics,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “This is an unprecedented decision and a major victory in the fight to ensure that we know as much as the law requires who is spending money to influence our political decisions. If the FEC will not or cannot do its job, watchdogs can.”
The case revolves around clearly political ads aired by AAN which three FEC Commissioners decided were not meant to influence an election, deadlocking the agency. 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 again deadlocked, with the same three Commissioners again finding that most of the ads were not political. The judge wrote in the second decision, “The controlling Commissioners did not find that this ad (nor any others mentioning healthcare) had an election-related purpose…Seriously?”
When the FEC failed to enforce on the second remand to the agency, CREW exercised its right under federal law to sue AAN directly. Today’s ruling means CREW and the public finally have the chance to learn who is behind one of the largest dark money groups in American history.
“The law only works when it is enforced,” Bookbinder said. “It is clear that the FEC had no desire to enforce it in this case; thankfully, today’s decision ensures that things won’t end there.”