FEC TAKES ACTION ON ADVISORY OPINION REQUESTS, DISCUSSES PROPOSED POLICY ON DISCLOSING GENERAL COUNSEL’S REPORTS AND HEARS UPDATE ON WEBSITE IMPROVEMENT
WASHINGTON – At its open meeting Thursday, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) approved one Advisory Opinion and determined not to render an opinion on a second request. The Commission also discussed a new policy proposal on disclosing First General Counsel’s Reports at the conclusion of enforcement matters, and received an update on the Commission’s Website and Internet Communications Improvement Initiative.
In Advisory Opinion Request 2009-25 (Jennifer Brunner Committee), the Commission determined not to render an Advisory Opinion. The Committee had sought an Advisory Opinion on whether it may pay three charities the market value of assets including computers, office equipment and supplies that, as represented in the request, formerly belonged to a since-terminated state committee and were left on the property of the state committee’s former landlord. The payment by the Committee was proposed in lieu of a straight sale of the assets. As a result of unresolved factual questions about the proposed transaction, the Commission determined not to render an opinion on the matter.
In Advisory Opinion 2009-26 (State Representative Elizabeth Coulson), the Commission concluded that State Representative Coulson and State Representative Coulson’s State Campaign Committee may use State Campaign Committee funds or State Officeholder funds to sponsor a fair for seniors, and to pay for postcards publicizing that event and a health care legislative update letter since these activities are not connected with any federal or non-federal election. Additionally, the Commission concluded that neither the postcards nor the letter would constitute coordinated communications with respect to the Federal committee if paid for by either of the state accounts.
Policy Regarding Public Disclosure of First General Counsel’s Reports. The Commission began consideration of a policy to place First General Counsel’s Reports on the public record at the conclusion of enforcement cases. The Commission had followed a practice of disclosing such reports in most cases for the first 25 years of its existence. However, in 2007, the agency informally initiated a practice of not placing these reports on the public record. Two draft proposals of the new policy were made public: one by Vice Chairman Matthew S. Petersen and Commissioners Caroline C. Hunter and Commissioner Donald F. McGahn and one drafted by the Office of General Counsel. The Commission will vote on the practice at another open meeting later this year.
Update on Website and Internet Improvement Initiative. The Commission received an update on its Website and Internet Improvement Initiative by Bob Biersack, the agency’s Special Assistant to the Staff Director for Data Integration. Biersack outlined several completed Information Technology (IT) projects, as well as projects that are currently in development. Biersack discussed the recently launched “data.fec.gov” where website users can now download data files with increased flexibility, and also reported that documents for all completed Matters Under Review (MURs) going back to 1975 would be added to the website database by the end of the year. This will result in approximately 4,000 closed MURs – consisting of approximately 770,000 pages of documents covering the 24-year period from the inception of the Agency – beingaccessible in digital form on the FEC website. Biersack said that the Commission is working to improve the existing search capabilities for Advisory Opinions. He also announced that the IT Division is developing a structure for participation in web governance, management and decision making regarding the FEC website. Chairman Steven T. Walther praised the IT staff for their exemplary work and for developing a comprehensive plan for implementing these ambitious projects. A detailed report on the progress of this initiative by Chairman Steven T. Walther can be found here.