The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is facing a lawsuit for its inaction on a complaint filed against Hillary Clinton‘s campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
The right-leaning Coolidge Reagan Foundation filed a lawsuit — obtained exclusively by IJR — on Wednesday morning in the hopes of getting a ruling that would force the FEC to address the complaint it filed on August 1, 2018.
Its original complaint with the FEC requested an investigation into Hillary for America — the official name of Clinton’s campaign — and the DNC for their role in obtaining and financing the anti-Donald Trump dossier penned by former British spy Christopher Steele.
By law, if the FEC does not rule on a filed complaint within 120 days, the party that filed the complaint has the authority to sue the commission. Almost 300 days have passed since the Coolidge Reagan Foundation filed that original complaint, and nothing has happened.
The original FEC complaint alleged that Hillary for America and the DNC breached campaign finance law by issuing a false report with the intention of misleading the American people. The complaint notes that campaign expenditure forms show that the DNC and Hillary for American paid their mutual legal advisers at Perkins Coie, LLP for “legal services,” but the law firm turned around and paid Fusion GPS for the Steele dossier.
The Coolidge Reagan Foundation argues that Hillary for America and the DNC used Perkins Coie, LLP as a “strawman” organization to distance themselves from Fusion GPS and Steele and submitted a false FEC complaint in the process:
Steele compiled the dubious and largely unverifiable information he received from foreign sources of questionable credibility into a “dossier” concerning Trump. Steele provided the dossier, through [his employer] Orbis, Fusion GPS, and Perkins Coie, to [Hillary for America] and the DNC.
Although the Coolidge Reagan Foundation outlined its evidence for the complaint and the FEC only requires that there be “reason to believe” a violation occurred — a threshold lower than standard probable cause — the FEC has refused to vote on the issue and, in effect, has blocked the investigation into the Clinton campaign and the DNC’s use of Perkins Cole to get damaging information on Trump from foreign actors.
This inaction on behalf of the FEC is part of a trend of inaction that has taken over the commission. Currently, there are only four commissioners in the FEC, and two seats have been left vacant. In order for an investigation to take place, FEC rules require four votes. That means any commissioner can kill the vote.
“FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub has publicly announced she intends to vote against any effort to defend against lawsuits such as this seeking to compel the FEC to engage in meritorious enforcement efforts,” the lawsuit notes.
“The Commission’s failure to act on CRF’s administrative complaint is arbitrary, capricious, contrary to law, and an abuse of discretion,” it adds.
Coolidge Reagan Foundation attorney Dan Backer told IJR that he doesn’t foresee the FEC getting its act together anytime soon on its own accord. He hopes the court will require a ruling from the FEC within 30 days.
If the court demands a ruling from the FEC and it doesn’t deliver, the court could grant the foundation the authority to pursue the case against Clinton and the DNC in the stead of the FEC.
Backer told IJR that he hopes this subsequent lawsuit will get the American people closer to understanding the truth about the DNC’s actions before the 2020 elections:
“Americans ought to know — before they decide to trust the Democrats or re-elect President Trump in 2020 — the extent to which the Democratic Party, its campaign, its candidate, its law firm, conspired to undermine our democracy. It’s really outrageous. Every time a Democrat opens their mouth about Russian collusion, I want to scream from the rooftops because there’s the collusion.”
As for the inaction at the FEC, Backer claimed Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is to blame for the two unfilled commissioner positions that could end the gridlock. The FEC typically fills two seats at the same time, with a Republican chosen by the president and Democrat chosen by the highest-ranking member, Schumer.
Backer noted that Schumer has yet to make a “serious” nomination to fill the vacant seat, effectively blocking the Republican seat from being filled, as well.
As IJR previously reported, the Coolidge Reagan Foundation also filed an FEC complaint against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and her chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, for their sketchy campaign funding operation and for failing to disclose payments to congresswoman’s boyfriend.
According to Backer, neither of those complaints have received a ruling from the FEC.
Correction [5/22/19, 1:05 p.m. ET]: Previously, this article inaccurately stated that current law requires the FEC to issue a ruling to start the campaign finance law violation investigation within 120 days of the filing. We have corrected the error.