The Commission requests public comment on a proposed pilot program that would permit respondents in enforcement matters to request a Commission hearing before it considers whether there is probable cause to believe that a violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act or the Commission regulations has occurred. The Commission designed the pilot program to address concerns within the regulated community regarding the transparency of agency actions and the limited opportunities to challenge accusations of wrongdoing. Comments on the proposal must be submitted on or before January 5, 2007.
Under the proposed pilot program, any respondent who reaches the “probable cause determination” stage of the enforcement process may submit a request for a hearing with his or her brief to the Commission. The request would state why the hearing was being requested and what issues the respondent expects to address. The request for a hearing is optional and the respondent’s decision as to whether or not to request a hearing will not influence the Commission’s decision as to a probable cause finding. The Commission will grant a request for an oral hearing if at least two Commissioners conclude that a hearing would help resolve significant legal issues, or significant questions about the application of the law to the facts. At the hearing, the respondent, or the respondent’s counsel, may directly present his or her arguments to the Commission, and the Commission may ask questions of the respondent.
Once approved, the pilot program would last for eight months, but could be extended by a Commission vote. The program can be modified or terminated at any time during the eight month period by the approval of a majority of the Commission.
The Commission asks that members of the regulated community and other interested persons submit comments on this proposed program to Mark D. Shonkwiler, Assistant General Counsel, Enforcement Division, either by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, by fax to 202/219-3923 with a followup paper copy, or in written form to Federal Election Commission, 999 E Street, NW, Washington, DC 20463. The Commission strongly encourages commenters to use e-mail to ensure timely receipt and consideration. All e-mails must include the full name, e-mail address, and postal address of the commenter in order to be considered and all e-mail attachments must be formatted either in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) or Microsoft Word (.doc). The proposed policy regarding the probable cause hearings is available on the Commission’s web site at http://transition.fec.gov/law/policy/probablecause/notice_2006-19.pdf.