On June 9, the Center for Competitive Politics (“CCP”) filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to challenge the Commission’s denial of its Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request. CCP asks the court to declare that the FEC violated FOIA and to compel the agency to provide the requested document.
CCP has sought a document related to the Commission’s consideration of a complaint Public Citizen filed against Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (“Crossroads GPS”), designated Matter Under Review 6396. The October 2010 complaint alleged that Crossroads GPS, a 501(c)(4) organization, was violating the law by not registering and reporting with the FEC as a political committee.
On December 3, 2013, the Commission deadlocked 3-3 on whether to find reason to believe that Crossroads GPS violated the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) and closed the case.
On January 8, 2014, the three Commissioners who voted not to proceed with an investigation released a “Statement of Reasons.” This statement referred to a “First General Counsel’s Report” that was circulated to Commissioners on June 22, 2011. According to the Statement of Reasons, the General Counsel withdrew that report and, on November 21, 2012, circulated a revised First General Counsel’s Report. The First General Counsel’s Report circulated on November 21, 2012, has been placed on the public record, but the withdrawn report has not.
On April 3, 2014, CCP submitted a FOIA request to the FEC seeking the withdrawn First General Counsel’s Report for MUR 6396. According to its court complaint, CCP received a response from the Commission’s FOIA Requester Service Center on April 10 that “broadly denied” its request, citing “the deliberative process privilege, attorney work-product privilege, and/or attorney-client privilege.” The response also noted that portions of the document are exempt from disclosure because they could divulge techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions.
On April 29, CCP filed an appeal of the FOIA decision, but the Commission was unable to render an opinion by a majority vote on whether to approve or deny that appeal.
CCP’s court complaint contends that withholding the withdrawn First General Counsel’s Report “without explaining the rationale for that decision is arbitrary
and capricious,” and is not justified by any FOIA exemption. CCP seeks declaratory and injunctive relief.
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia: Case No. 14-970.