After obtaining more than 1,600 pages of internal documents from the Federal Election Commission (FEC)’s investigation of the dark money group Commission on Hope, Growth and Opportunity (CHGO) which make it clear that CHGO was created for the explicit purpose of influencing elections while evading disclosure, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a motion in federal court for judgment declaring that the FEC’s failure to act against CHGO violated the Federal Election Campaign Act.
Late last year, CREW sued the FEC for not acting despite the fact that the FEC’s own Office of the General Counsel recommended three times that the agency take action against CHGO for violating the law. The new documents reveal false testimony to the FEC, obstruction of an FEC subpoena, missing and likely destroyed documents and a previously unreleased fundraising letter bragging about CHGO’s purpose being electoral spending without disclosure.
“These documents reveal a treasure trove of incriminating information the FEC should have used to find reason to believe CHGO violated the law,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “It’s mindboggling that they had so much clear evidence but refused to act.”
In the previously undisclosed letter, Wayne Berman, a man who claimed to have only a limited connection with CHGO, wrote that CHGO is “an organization which focuses on running independent expenditures in key districts to support the election of Republican candidates” that “is organized as a 501c(4) organization, and contributions to the Commission are not tax deductible and not disclosed.” 501(c)(4) organizations cannot have political spending be their major focus; any organization focused on political spending must disclose its donors. The FEC had all this information, but still chose not to act.
“It’s outrageous that we have to sue the FEC to do its job, even in patently clear cases of wrongdoing,” Bookbinder said. “These documents make it clear that this case should never have gotten to this point.”