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District Court Says FEC Dropped Ball on Political Committee Case

November 12, 2021 by Dan McCue
In this Tuesday, May 1, 2018 photo, President Donald Trump speaks during a ceremony to present the Commander in Chief trophy to the U.S. Military Academy football team in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — The Federal Elections Commissions failed to act on an administrative complaint from the Campaign Legal Center in a timely fashion and must now resolve the matter within the next 30 days, a federal court ruled Thursday.

The ruling stems from a complaint the Campaign Legal Center filed in August 2018 against the 45Committee, Inc., a non profit organization that spent more than $21 million supporting presidential candidate Donald Trump during the final month of the 2016 campaign and opposing both Hillary Clinton and U. S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy. 

Because the 45Committee was organized under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, it is not required to disclose its donors, but the Campaign Legal Center argued because its primary purpose was to engage in federal campaign activity, the group should have been required to register as a political committee and file disclosure reports. 

But months went by and nothing happened because the commission did not have a quorum to conduct business.

In March 2020 the Campaign Legal Center sued the FEC over its inaction and the following May, the court declared the commission in default for failing to plead or otherwise defend itself in court.

But the court stopped short of lodging a final judgment against the agency in light of the quorum issue. Instead, it said it was ruling “without prejudice to a renewed motion if [the FEC] does not enter an appearance in this case by May 1, 2021.” 

When the commission failed to do so, the Campaign Legal Center renewed its effort to get a default judgment lodged against the agency.

Ultimately, the court found the FEC’s failure to act was unlawful under the Federal Election Campaign Act and ordered the agency to act on the complaint in the next month.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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