With less than a month before the U.S. midterm elections, a watchdog group on Monday sued the federal regulatory agency responsible for enforcing campaign finance law over “failing to protect Georgia voters.”
“This is yet another example of the FEC refusing to enforce our nation’s campaign finance laws.”
The Campaign Legal Center Action (CLCA) filed suit against the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of Common Cause Georgia.
The lawsuit follows the FEC’s three GOP commissioners dismissing a March 2021 complaint from CLCA and Common Cause Georgia alleging illegal coordination between the nonprofit True the Vote—founded by Catherine Engelbrecht, who’s known for spreading voter fraud conspiracy theories—and the state Republican Party during the 2021 U.S. Senate runoff.
“The FEC’s dismissal of this administrative complaint was based on critical errors of law and cannot be sustained,” argued Megan McAllen, director of campaign finance litigation at CLCA, in a Tuesday statement. “This is yet another example of the FEC refusing to enforce our nation’s campaign finance laws even in the face of significant evidence the law was violated.”
“Failing to hold political actors accountable for their abuses of campaign finance law does immense damage to the anti-corruption and transparency objectives that those laws were designed to serve,” she continued. “We urge the court to recognize that this dismissal was contrary to law and send the case back to the FEC so the agency can do its job.”
FEC lawyers found reason to believe the Georgia GOP failed to disclose the services as in-kind contributions, in violation of federal campaign finance law https://t.co/7XZl4f3O5B pic.twitter.com/5fFwOLFAcb— Isaac Stanley-Becker (@isaacstanbecker) September 14, 2022
FEC Chairman Allen Dickerson, along with Commissioners Sean Cooksey and Trey Trainor, blocked an investigation into the allegations against True the Vote and the Georgia Republican Party.
Dickerson and Trainor said in a statement explaining their decision that True the Vote’s “election integrity initiatives were equally available to all” and evidence shows the group “was pursuing these initiatives—and would have continued to do so—regardless of Engelbrecht’s meeting with the Georgia GOP.”
Referencing True the Vote’s post-meeting public comments about partnering with the Georgia Republican Party to “ensure that the law is upheld and law-abiding voters have their voices heard,” Dickerson and Trainor claimed the language “had a colloquial and not a legal significance” and there is nothing to suggest the group “undertook any of its activities ‘in cooperation, consultation, or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of’ the Georgia GOP.”
As Insider reported last month:
The FEC’s nonpartisan legal office reached a markedly different conclusion.
In a 56-page report recommending an investigation, the FEC general counsel pointed to past statements in which Engelbrecht said True the Vote’s efforts were intended to “assist with the Senate runoff election process” and were motivated by “what happened in November,” an apparent reference to the 2020 presidential election.
“True the Vote’s efforts were undertaken in partnership with the Georgia GOP, a committee whose fundamental purpose is to help Republicans win elections in Georgia, and it appears that a goal of these particular efforts was to influence the election by challenging absentee voter registrations,” the FEC general counsel’s office said.
Insider noted that “representatives from True the Vote did not immediately respond to requests for comment.”
Common Cause Georgia executive director Aunna Dennis said Tuesday that “we were pleased that the FEC’s nonpartisan Office of General Counsel agreed that there was reason to believe violations occurred.”
“The FEC’s three Republican commissioners rejected that recommendation, however, and failed to stand up for hundreds of thousands of Georgia voters by letting True the Vote off the hook for their illegal attempts to undermine people’s votes in 2021,” she asserted.
Dennis added that “we have another important election just weeks away and Georgia voters need reassurance that their rights to vote will always be respected and that our federal institutions won’t neglect their duties to enforce the law.”
The Democratic candidates, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, won Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats in 2021, giving their party narrow control of the chamber. Warnock is up for reelection this year and is locked in a tight race against his scandal-plagued GOP opponent, Herschel Walker.
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