Exclusive: Watchdog sues FEC for closing Trump investigation

A watchdog group sued the Federal Election Commission (FEC) Monday for dismissing its complaint alleging that the Trump campaign unlawfully coordinated with a super PAC during the 2020 election. 

In a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of Democratic group End Citizens United, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) Action challenged the decision by Republican FEC commissioners to close an investigation into the Trump campaign without providing their reasoning.

The groups filed an FEC complaint against former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump hails Arizona Senate for audit at Phoenix rally, slams governor Arkansas governor says it's 'disappointing' vaccinations have become 'political' Watch live: Trump attends rally in Phoenix MORE’s reelection committees in May 2019 after the Trump campaign stated that America First Action was the only “approved outside non-campaign group” for supporters to donate to. 

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The groups said the Trump campaign illegally solicited donations to a closely tied super PAC, an allegation the Trump campaign disputed. The FEC’s career attorneys recommended that commissioners investigate the matter, but the FEC’s Republicans voted to dismiss the case, effectively blocking further inquiries.

CLC Action wants a federal court to order the FEC to determine whether the Trump campaign violated campaign finance law. 

“We should not have to sue the FEC repeatedly to make it do its job,” Adav Noti, senior director of trial litigation and chief of staff at CLC Action, said in a statement. “Yet here is another example of the FEC refusing to enforce key laws that protect the rights of American voters.”

America First Action spent nearly $139 million to boost Trump’s unsuccessful reelection bid, according to OpenSecrets.org. 

The lawsuit coincides with a strategy by Democratic FEC commissioners to block the FEC from defending itself in court. That move opens up the FEC to lawsuits that could force commissioners to respond to complaints instead of dismissing them.  

Democratic commissioners have long accused Republicans of stonewalling investigations into allegations of campaign finance violations. GOP commissioners accuse Democrats of overreaching their powers. 

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The six-person FEC cannot have more than three members from the same political party. Any significant action requires four votes, leading to deadlocked votes in high-profile cases.

The For the People Act, Democrats’ election overhaul bill, would restructure the FEC by giving it five commissioners rather than six and preventing commissioners from blocking investigations at an early stage. It would also enact stricter laws governing coordination between campaigns and super PACs.

“This incident further highlights glaring breakdowns in our campaign finance system and why there’s an immediate need for the anti-corruption provisions in the For the People Act,” End Citizens United President Tiffany Muller said in a statement.

The FEC declined to comment, stating it does not comment on litigation. The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.