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Public Citizen, et al. v. FEC

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Public Citizen, et al. v. FEC
Case Summary

On January 31, 2014, Public Citizen, et al. (“Public Citizen”) filed suit against the FEC in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, challenging the Commission’s dismissal of the plaintiffs’ administrative complaint against Crossroads Global Political Strategies (“Crossroads GPS”).

The suit arises from an administrative complaint Public Citizen and others filed with the FEC on October 14, 2010, that alleged Crossroads GPS violated the Federal Election Campaign Act (the “Act”) by not registering and reporting as a political committee.

Under the Act, a group generally must register as a political committee if it raises or spends more than $1,000 during a calendar year to influence federal elections. 2 U.S.C. 431(4). In Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court said the definition of political committee “need only encompass organizations that are under the control of a candidate or the major purpose of which is the nomination or election of a candidate.” Public Citizen alleges that in 2010, Crossroads GPS exceeded FECA’s $1,000 expenditure threshold and that its major purpose was to influence federal elections.

The Commission lacked the required votes to open an investigation and the matter was dismissed. 

Public Citizen’s lawsuit challenges that dismissal. The complaint alleges that Crossroads GPS spent more than $1,000 to influence federal elections and that its total spending on political advertising, relative to its total receipts, suggests its major purpose was to influence federal elections. The complaint further alleges that Crossroads GPS violated the Act’s registration requirements and failed to disclose the funding sources for Crossroads GPS’ political advertisements. 

Public Citizen seeks a declaration that the Commission’s dismissal of its administrative complaint was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and otherwise contrary to the law.  Public Citizen further seeks an order requiring the FEC to conform with such a declaration within 30 days.

Source:   FEC Record -- February 2014.

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Appeals Court (DC Circuit)

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