March 31, 2014

Last Week at the FEC: Potential Controversy over Dormant Funds Opinion

Holland & Knight Eyes on Washington Blog
Andy Emerson

Last week the Federal Election Commission did not meet, but released an additional draft Advisory Opinion in AO 2014-01, Solano County Democratic Central Committee, extended its time for consideration of AO 2014-02, Make Your Laws PAC, and released a Supplemental Statement of Reasons related to the Commission's enforcement action against Crossroads GPS. 

The Commission also released a Statement of Reasons from Chairman Lee E. Goodman related to Gregg for Indiana's use of state campaign funds to air an advertisement about, but not promoting, attacking, supporting, or opposing a candidate, as well as a series of Administrative Fine determinations.

New Draft Advisory Opinion Could Signals Controversy over Dormant Funds

It is unclear whether the Commission's release of an additional draft Advisory Opinion in AO 2014-01, Solano County Democratic Central Committee, signals that it is heading towards yet another disagreement this year, or whether the Commission staff are simply responding to new information. The Committee has requested clarification from the Commission regarding whether it may use funds remaining in a bank account associated with a former committee of the County Democratic Party that was closed administratively by the Commission in 2005.

As this blog discussed in late February, the Commission's initial draft would have found that the Central Committee could not use the funds because it could not prove that the funds complied with the source prohibition and contribution limits imposed by the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). In the Draft B document released this week, the Commission would make a contrary finding, determining that the Central Committee may transfer those funds into its account and use them to finance federal election activity as long as it uses "best efforts" to disclose the source of the remaining funds.    

The Commission's public meeting this coming Thursday should clarify its reasoning for the release of this latest draft.

Extension of MYL PAC's Bitcoin AOR Request

The Commission's agenda for its upcoming open session indicates that it will be considering AO 2014-02, Make Your Law PAC's request to establish a framework for accepting bitcoins, which this blog discussed on February 18. However, last week the PAC granted the Commission a 60-day extension to consider the Advisory Opinion request further until May 9, 2014.  This is the first of several AORs forthcoming from MYL PAC, which is seeking to establish a clear regulatory landscape within which to launch an innovative non-partisan attempt to adopt online system to facilitate contributors support for chosen candidates or policy positions.

Republican-Appointed Commissioners' Release Supplemental Statement Regarding Crossroads GPS Decision

As this blog discussed in January, last December the Commission deadlocked on a 3-3 vote regarding whether Crossroads GPS, a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, had violated 2 U.S.C §§432, 433, and 434(b) by failing to register and report as a political committee. At the time, the Commission's Democrat and Republican-appointed Commissioners released opposing Statements of Reasons regarding their votes. 

In a new twist last week, the Republican-appointed Commissioners released a supplemental statement explaining why they had originally sought to attach a copy of the General Counsel's First Report regarding the Crossroads Matter, and expressing their continuing support for release that report. Specifically, the Republican-appointed commissioners argued that redaction of the General Counsel's First Report deviated from past practice and current policy, and served to make an opaque process even less transparent to the public.  The release of this supplemental statement is indicative of ongoing heightened tension on the Commission, but does not provide any further clues regarding how or why the General Counsel's legal interpretation evolved during its investigation.

Meeting Schedules

The Commission is scheduled to meet in executive session on Tuesday, April 2 and in open session on Thursday, April 3.

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