In October 2018, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed an administrative complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), alleging that Heritage Action, a 501(c)(4) corporation, violated the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) by failing to disclose who paid for its election advertising during the 2018 election cycle. CLC’s administrative complaint provides clear evidence that Heritage Action solicited and received contributions for the purpose of furthering its election advertising, and in mid-September 2018, Heritage Action spent at least $374,177 on ads supporting 12 candidates running for U.S. House of Representatives seats in 2018. Contrary to federal law, Heritage Action did not disclose its contributions.
After waiting for the FEC to take action on CLC’s administrative complaint for over 850 days, CLC sued the FEC in February 2021 for failing to enforce federal disclosure laws and compel the Commission to conform with its statutory mandate to investigate Heritage Action’s alleged FECA violations.
FECA states that if the FEC fails to respond to an administrative complaint within 120 days, the court can declare this inaction contrary to the law, and if the FEC does not act in the following 30 days, CLC can sue Heritage Action.
What's at Stake
Transparency around who is spending money to support or oppose federal candidates is a cornerstone of federal campaign finance law and critical to our democracy. Under FECA, organizations that spend money supporting candidates in federal elections must disclose their donors, along with other information about their financial activities.
By allowing organizations like Heritage Action to evade federal disclosure laws, the FEC leaves the public in the dark about who is seeking to influence elections and undermines voters’ trust in our democratic process. The lack of consequence for unlawful behavior encourages Heritage Action and others like it to continue to violate campaign finance laws.
Wealthy special interests often run election ads that are deliberately misleading. Voters need to know who is funding these ads so they can weigh their credibility and cast an informed vote. The FEC has a responsibility to ensure there is transparency and accountability in our elections by investigating and acting on potential FECA violations like those alleged in CLC’s administrative complaint.