Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Trump Campaign Challenge Puts Spotlight on FEC Gridlock

End Citizens United says the Federal Election Commission is not an effective watchdog because most high-profile cases never go anywhere and are forgotten.

WASHINGTON (CN) — A political action committee sued the Federal Election Commission on Monday for ignoring its evidence that the Trump campaign coordinated with a super PAC that raised $150 million last year.

FEC regulations prohibit campaigns from soliciting contributions to super PACs without taking measures to ensure that the donations comply with federal contribution limits. 

In the federal complaint End Citizens United filed in Washington, however, the group says that the Trump campaign solicited and directed donations to America First Action, and that the super PAC was the only outside, non-campaign group "approved" by former President Donald Trump or the Republican National Committee to get donor money.

“By declaring America First Action as his campaign’s approved outside group — alongside his own campaign and party committees — Donald Trump broke campaign finance laws restricting coordination between candidates and Super PACs,” Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United, said in a statement. “This incident further highlights glaring breakdowns in our campaign finance system.”

The Trump campaign denied that it did anything wrong, saying that it “merely provided the identity of an appropriate recipient, without any attempt to motivate another person to contribute or donate funds.”

End Citizens United filed a complaint with the FEC in May 2019, and it says attorneys in the agency's Office of General Counsel recommended that it find reason to believe that the campaign violated the law. 

FEC commissioners voted 3-2 in April 2021 to approve the General Counsel’s recommendations — but the commission requires four votes to proceed. “Despite compelling evidence,” the investigation was dismissed without an explanation, according to the complaint.

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

Noti, who submitted the lawsuit, called on Congress to pass For the People Act, an election overhaul bill that would restructure the FEC to have five members, rather than six, as many high-profile cases are deadlocked with a six-person commission that can’t have more than three members of the same political party. 

Democrats say that has allowed campaign finance violators to go unchecked for years.  

The FEC declined to comment, citing the agency standard for pending litigation. 

Follow Samantha Hawkins on Twitter

Categories / Financial, Government, Politics

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.