On June 10, 2016, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and its Executive Director, Noah Bookbinder, (collectively, "CREW") filed suit against the Commission in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. CREW alleges that the Commission's dismissal of its administrative complaint (Matter Under Review (MUR) 6661) against Robert E. Murray; Murray Energy Corporation; Murray Energy Corporation PAC and Michael G. Ruble, in his official capacity as treasurer, (collectively, "Respondents") was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and contrary to law.
The Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) and Commission regulations prohibit corporations from making direct contributions to federal candidates. 52 U.S.C. § 30118; 11 CFR 114.2. However, corporations may create separate segregated funds, i.e., corporate-sponsored political action committees (PACs), to fund activities using voluntary contributions raised from executives and stockholders in connection with a federal election, including making direct candidate contributions. 52 U.S.C. § 30118(b)(2)(C); 11 CFR 114.5.
Corporate PACs may not make contributions or expenditures using money that was secured by actual or threatened physical force, job discrimination, financial reprisals, or other moneys required as a condition of employment. See 52 U.S.C. § 30118(b)(3)(A); 11 CFR 114.5(a)(1). The Act and Commission regulations also prohibit a person from making a contribution in the name of another person and from knowingly accepting a contribution made by one person in the name of another. 52 U.S.C. § 30122; 11 CFR 110.4(b)(1).
On October 5, 2012, CREW filed a complaint with the Commission alleging that the Respondents engaged in coercive solicitation practices with Murray Energy Corporation employees. CREW also alleged that Murray Energy Corporation's bonus program was used to reimburse employees for their political contributions. On February 1, 2016, the Commission's Office of General Counsel recommended that the Commission find reason to believe (RTB) that the Respondents violated the Act and recommended authorizing an investigation. The Commission failed by a vote of three to three to make an RTB finding and subsequently dismissed the complaint. See MUR 6661.
Challenge to Dismissal of Administrative Complaint
In its challenge to the Commission's dismissal of its complaint, CREW alleges that the Commission applied an improper standard for an RTB finding, incorrectly interpreted provisions of the Act and reached factual conclusions unsupported by the record. CREW seeks a declaration from the District Court to that effect and an order that the Commission conform to the court's declaration within 30 days. CREW also seeks court costs and attorney's fees.
- CREW v. FEC (16-1088) litigation page