On February 8, 2007, the Commission established a pilot program under which respondents in enforcement matters may request a hearing before the Commission considers whether there is probable cause to believe that they violated the Federal Election Campaign Act or the Commission's implementing regulations. The pilot program is intended to address concerns within the regulated community regarding the transparency of agency actions and the lack of direct access to the Commission during the enforcement process.
Under the pilot program, any respondent who receives a General Counsel's Brief in the "probable cause to believe" stage of the enforcement process may submit a request for a hearing to the Commission with his or her reply brief. The request should 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.
Within 30 days of receiving the brief, the Commission will notify the respondent whether the Commission has granted the hearing request. The Commission will grant a request for an oral hearing if any 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 be subject to questions as to their position. Hearings are confidential and closed to the public.
The pilot program will last for eight months but may 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.
More information about this program was published in the Federal Register on February 16, 2007, and is available on the Commission's web site at https://transition.fec.gov/law/policy.shtml.