Groups Challenging FEC Dismissal of Crossroads GPS Complaint File Reply Brief


On Wednesday night, in Public Citizen v. FEC, reform groups filed a reply brief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia reiterating a request that the court declare the FEC’s dismissal of a complaint against the secretive 501(c)(4) political group Crossroads GPS contrary to law, and arbitrary and capricious.

The lawsuit stemmed from the FEC’s failure to investigate a complaint that Crossroads GPS violated the law in refusing to register as a political committee in 2010. The FEC Office of General Counsel had strongly recommended that the agency investigate the matter because Crossroads GPS spent $20.8 million on federal campaign activity between June and December 2010 – more than half of what Crossroads GPS reported spending the entire year. The Commission deadlocked 3-3 along party lines, resulting in the dismissal of the complaint. The three Commissioners refusing to investigate the matter argued that only those ads that constitute express advocacy bear on whether Crossroads GPS should disclose as a federal political committee, and the FEC’s lawyers in this case demanded that the Court pay deference to the views of these three Commissioners.

“Despite the laundry list of arguments the FEC now makes in attempting to get this case dismissed, this case is about three Republican FEC Commissioners ignoring the advice of their own General Counsel and failing to come up with any reasonable explanation for their refusal to initiate an investigation,” said Paul S. Ryan, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel. “The violations of the law by Crossroads GPS outlined in the complaint are clear cut and have continued unchecked since the FEC’s deadlock. Further the refusal of the Republican FEC Commissioners to enforce the laws has encouraged other ‘dark money’ groups to follow suit and to spend millions of dollars to buy election results without revealing the monied interests financing their spending. The FEC is clearly unwilling to enforce the law but we hope this court will compel the agency to do its job.”

“This case is simply about whether the FEC will enforce the law, or whether it will permit thinly veiled legal shenanigans to make a mockery of agency rules – a kind of ‘legal laundering’ for otherwise impermissible ‘dark money’ operations,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen.

The lawsuit was brought by the parties to the 2010 complaint: Public Citizen; Craig Holman, campaign finance expert for Public Citizen;; and Kevin Zeese of The Campaign Legal Center and Public Citizen are handling the legal work on the case as co-counsel for the parties.

The groups contend that Crossroads GPS – an organization created by Republican strategists Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie to influence the 2010 midterm elections – fits the legal definition of a political committee: any group that receives or spends more than $1,000 during a calendar year to influence elections and whose major purpose is federal campaign activity. Political committees must disclose information about their donors and expenditures. The FEC’s refusal to investigate Crossroads GPS for failing to register as a political committee has allowed the organization to continue to keep its donors secret for the last three election cycles.

To read the reply brief filed with the court, click here.

To read the original motion for summary judgment, click here.

To read the original FEC complaint, click here.

To read the statement by the Democratic Commissioners of the FEC, click here.

To read the FEC General Counsel’s recommendation, click here.