CLCA Represents ECU in Lawsuit Against FEC Over Trump Campaign’s Unlawful Solicitation

Members of the Federal Election Commission speaking
Members of the Federal Election Commission during an open meeting on March 28, 2019. Photo by Casey Atkins/Campaign Legal Center.

Campaign Legal Center Action (CLCA) has served the Federal Election Commission (FEC) with a lawsuit, on behalf of End Citizens United (ECU), related to former President Trump’s campaign’s violation of campaign finance law.

The lawsuit relates to a 2019 complaint, filed by CLC and ECU, aiming to hold the Trump campaign accountable for unlawfully soliciting unlimited contributions to the super PAC America First Action.

Federal law and FEC regulations prohibit campaigns from soliciting contributions to super PACs unless certain critical measures are taken. The Trump campaign took no such measures, instead issuing a blanket endorsement of unlimited contributions to the “approved” super PAC.

Coordinated spending, as seen here by the Trump campaign but widely-used by actors of all political parties, is just as valuable as direct contributions. Coordination between outside spenders and their preferred political party must be strictly policed and strictly enforced.

Despite recommendation from the FEC’s General Counsel that there was reason to believe the campaign violated the law, the Commission deadlocked 3-2 and closed the case. The lawsuit challenges the decision of the two FEC Commissioners who voted to dismiss the complaint and asks the court to direct the FEC to take action.

Gridlock at the FEC has once again resulted in a bad actor getting away with a blatant violation of the law. Continued inaction and infighting at the agency will only further erosion of voters’ trust in our institutions.  

This trend of inaction will continue unless real action is taken. Congress must pass the For the People Act, H.R. 1/S. 1, to reform the FEC to make it an effective watchdog. 

With this lawsuit, CLCA and ECU are asking the FEC to enforce one of the few laws that separate campaigns from super PACs, but the bill includes much more robust rules to prevent corporate-funded super PACs from operating as the big money arms of campaigns.

Brendan is a Senior Communications Manager for Campaign Finance and Ethics issues at CLC.
Reducing Dysfunction at Our Country's Election Watchdog Agency