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  • FEC Record: Litigation

CREW v. FEC(15-cv-02038)(New)

December 3, 2015

On November 23, 2015, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington ("CREW"), and Melanie Sloan filed a Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The Complaint alleges that the FEC's' dismissal of CREW's administrative complaint against the Commission on Hope, Growth and Opportunity ("CHGO") was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and contrary to law. CREW seeks an order declaring that the dismissal was contrary to law and requiring the Commission to conform with that decision.

CREW and its former Executive Director, Melanie Sloan, filed a complaint with the FEC on May 23, 2011 and an amended complaint on April 26, 2012. They alleged that CHGO spent over $2.3 million in the 2010 elections in violation of FECA by disseminating electioneering communications and independent expenditures without including proper disclaimers, reporting its activity, or registering as a political committee with the FEC. (MUR 6471)

On October 1, 2015, the Commission, by a vote of three to three, did not find reason to believe that CHGO violated the Act, and the Commission then voted to close the file.

On November 23, 2015, CREW and Melanie Sloan filed a Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the Commission's dismissal of its administrative complaint.

Legal provisions
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). Independent expenditures must be reported to the FEC by political committees, and by every person that is not a political committee once the expenditures aggregate in excess of $250 in a calendar year with respect to a given election. 52 U.S.C § 30104(c)(1); 11 CFR 109.10.

Electioneering communications are any broadcast, cable or satellite communication that refers to a clearly identified candidate for federal office, that is publicly distributed within certain time periods before an election, and that is targeted to the relevant electorate. 52 U.S.C. § 30104(f)(3)(A); 11 CFR 100.29(a). Electioneering communications must be reported to the FEC once spending exceeds $10,000 in a calendar year. See 52 U.S.C. § 30104(f)(1); 11 CFR 104.10(b).

Both independent expenditures and electioneering communications must include a disclaimer stating who paid for the communication and whether it was authorized by any candidate or campaign committee. See 52 U.S.C. § 30120(d)(2); 11 CFR 110.11(c)(4).

Finally, "any committee, club, association or other group of persons which receives contributions aggregating in excess of $1,000 during a calendar year or which makes expenditures aggregating in excess of $1,000 during a calendar year," and whose major purpose is the nomination or election of a federal candidate, is a political committee that must register and report to the FEC. 52 U.S.C. § 30101(4)(A); 11 CFR 100.5; Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 79 (1976).

Court complaint
Plaintiffs allege that the Commission''s dismissal of their administrative complaint was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and contrary to law in that the dismissal rested on impermissible interpretations of the Act, ignored Commission and judicial precedent, and mischaracterized political campaign activities.

The plaintiffs ask the court to declare the dismissal contrary to law and issue an order requiring the Commission to conform with that decision.