On January 12, 2018, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and Noah Bookbinder (together, “plaintiffs”) filed suit against the FEC in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Plaintiffs seek injunctive and declaratory relief under the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act).
On September 17, 2014, plaintiffs filed an administrative complaint with the FEC concerning New Models, a tax-exempt group organized under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. The complaint alleged that in 2012, New Models made contributions totaling more than $3 million to various Super PACs with the purpose of influencing federal elections. This sum allegedly constituted approximately 68.5% of the expenditures made by New Models during 2012. Because of this, the complaint alleged that New Models failed to register and report as a political committee from 2012 onward as required under the Act.
The FEC considered the allegations contained in the administrative complaint but was equally divided on whether to find reason to believe New Models violated the Act. The Commissioners voting not to proceed on the reason to believe vote concluded that New Models did not meet the statutory threshold for political committee status and also lacked the requisite major purpose. They found that the organization’s major purpose was not the nomination or election of federal candidates over the course of its existence and further that it did not become its major purpose in 2012.
Accordingly, on November 14, 2017, the Commission closed the file. The plaintiffs’ suit requests that the Court declare that the FEC’s dismissal of their complaint was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and contrary to law. The suit also asks that the Court order the Commission to conform to such declaration within thirty days.