In December 2019, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed an administrative complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), alleging that Iowa Values, “a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, violated the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) by failing to register as a political committee and failing to report its contributions, expenditures, and debts.” CLC's administrative complaint provides clear evidence that Iowa Values' major purpose was to promote the reelection of U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst.
In June 2020, after the FEC failed to take action on CLC’s administrative complaint for over 190 days, CLC sued the FEC over its delay. In October 2020, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a default judgement order against the FEC, finding that the agency’s failure to act on CLC’s administrative complaint against Iowa Values was contrary to law.
What’s at Stake?
Transparency around who is spending money to support or oppose federal candidates is a cornerstone of the Federal Election Committee Act (FECA) and critical to our democracy. Under FECA, organizations that exist primarily to engage in political activity—including making expenditures to support their preferred candidates—must register as political action committees (PACs) with the FEC and disclose their donors, along with other information about their financial activities.
In its administrative complaint, CLC demonstrated that Iowa Values’ major purpose—as evidenced by its public communications, fundraising appeals and strategy documents—was to support the election of Sen. Joni Ernst. But Iowa Values failed to register as a federal PAC and has not filed the necessary reports disclosing its contributions and expenditures, as required by FECA.
By allowing organizations like Iowa Values to evade federal law, 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 illegal behavior encourages Iowa Values and others like it to continue to violate campaign finance laws.
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.