On February 16, 2016, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and Nicholas Mezlak filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to challenge the Commission''s dismissal of their administrative complaint against Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (Crossroads GPS) and individuals connected to the organization. CREW asks the court to declare the dismissal “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and contrary to law” and to invalidate the disclosure regulation at issue in the case.
CREW, its former executive director Melanie Sloan and Ohio resident and registered voter Jessica Markley filed an administrative complaint (MUR 6696) with the FEC on November 14, 2012. The complaint alleged that Crossroads GPS and individuals connected to the organization (Steven Law, Karl Rove, Haley Barbour, and Caleb Crosby) violated the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) by failing to disclose the contributors who funded the group''s independent expenditures. See 52 U.S.C. §30104 and 11 CFR 109.10(b)–(e).
On November 17, 2015, the Commission, by a vote of three to three, did not find reason to believe that Crossroads GPS violated the Act. A month later, the Commission unanimously voted to close the file on MUR 6696, thereby dismissing CREW’s complaint.
Under the Act and Commission regulations, an independent expenditure is an expenditure by a person for a communication that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate and that is not coordinated with a federal candidate or political party. 52 U.S.C. §30101(17); 11 CFR 100.16(a).
Political committees and other persons whose independent expenditures aggregate in excess of $250 in a calendar year with respect to a given election must report those expenditures to the FEC -- in some cases within 24 or 48 hours. 52 U.S.C §30104(c)(1); 11 CFR 109.10. For persons other than political committees, those reports must, among other things, identify each person who made a contribution in excess of $200 for the purpose of furthering an independent expenditure. 52 U.S.C. §30104(c)(2).
The plaintiffs ask the court for a declaratory order stating that the FEC’s dismissal of the MUR was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and contrary to law. In addition, the plaintiffs allege that the requirement to disclose contributors who gave "for the purpose of furthering the reported independent expenditure" in 11 CFR 109.10(e)(1)(vi) is inconsistent with the statutory requirement to identify those who gave "for the purpose of furthering an independent expenditure," (emphasis added). See 11 CFR 109.10(e)(1)(vi) and 52 U.S.C. §30104(c)(2). For that reason, they ask the court to declare the regulation invalid. See 11 CFR 109.10(e)(1)(vi) and 52 U.S.C. §30104(c)(2). For that reason, they ask the court to declare the regulation invalid. Plaintiffs also allege that the Commission’s dismissal was contrary to another provision of FECA which requires that independent expenditure reports must identify each person other than a political committee who contributed more than $200 to the committee or person making the independent expenditure. 52 U.S.C. §30104(c)(1) and (b)(3)(A).
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia: Case 1:16-cv-00259-BAH