DOJ: Watchdogs Applaud Justice Department’s Stated Commitment to Enforce Campaign Finance Coordination Laws; Urge Active Enforcement in 2016 Election
In a letter sent today to the Justice Department, the Campaign Legal Center joined Democracy 21 in applauding the agency’s recent action to enforce the coordination standard in the campaign finance laws and emphasized how important it is for the Department to play an active role in enforcing the campaign finance laws in the 2016 election cycle.
The letter stated:
The Justice Department’s active supervision and enforcement of the campaign finance laws is necessary in order to ensure that those laws are not blatantly violated by participants in the 2016 elections. The FEC, the agency with exclusive civil jurisdiction to enforce the campaign finance laws, has proven to be wholly incapable of carrying out its enforcement responsibilities.
We commend the Department for its recent prosecution of illegal coordination that occurred in the 2012 election between a congressional campaign and a Super PAC. As the Department announced on February 12, 2015, this was “the first criminal prosecution in the United States based upon the coordination of campaign contributions between political committees.”
In addition, we applaud the commitment made in announcing this criminal conviction when you stated, “The Department of Justice is fully committed to addressing the threat posed to the integrity of federal primary and general elections by coordinated campaign contributions, and will aggressively pursue coordination offenses at every appropriate opportunity.”
The letter further noted:
According to a recent article in The Washington Post, “The Justice Department is stepping up scrutiny of the increasingly cozy ties between candidates and their outside allies, a move that could jolt the freewheeling campaign finance atmosphere ahead of the 2016 elections.” M. Gold, “Justice Department Ramps Up Scrutiny of Candidates and Outside Groups,” The Washington Post (Feb. 27, 2015).
The letter noted the rise of Super PACs generally, and individual-candidate Super PACs specifically, following the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizen United decision. With this rise, the problem of illegal coordination between candidates and outside spending groups has become a very serious issue.
According to Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel Paul S. Ryan:
Given that the Federal Election Commission has abandoned any pretense of enforcing the campaign finance laws, it is critical that the Justice Department closely review the relationship between presidential candidates and the individual-candidate Super PACs created to promote their candidacies.
While federal candidates are subject to a $2,700 limit on individual contributions, and a ban on corporate and union contributions, Super PACs can accept unlimited contributions from any source. Candidate coordination with Super PACs eviscerates the corruption-preventing candidate contribution limits.
Jeb Bush is already reportedly raising million-dollar contributions for the Right to Rise Super PAC associated with him—and has a $100 million fundraising goal for the first quarter of 2015.
With the FEC missing in action, the Justice Department must vigilantly monitor campaign activities to ensure that Bush and all other 2016 candidates comply with federal laws restricting their coordination with Super PACs associated with them, and bring enforcement actions where appropriate.
To read the full letter, click here.