The Center for Competitive Politics, a group that pushes to roll back campaign finance restrictions, said Friday that it had filed a records request to the Federal Election Commission for a controversial redacted document in a case about whether Crossroads GPS was a legitimate nonprofit. The group suggested it might take legal action if the document isn't released.
"It's outrageous that the FEC ignored its own policies and regulations that require this document to be disclosed," Dave Keating, the president of the Center and former executive director of the Club for Growth, said in a statement.
National Journal first reported on the sealed document last month, and the magazine's story is cited in the group's Freedom of Information Act request.
The story of the redaction begins when the FEC deadlocked in the Crossroads GPS case last December. As both sides drafted their dueling partisan statements, the FEC's Republican commissioners sought to attach an initial recommendation from the FEC's lawyers in the case. That first report had been withdrawn and replaced with a final report from the counsel's office, which was public. Against their wishes, all 76 pages of the report that the Republican commissioners sought to publish were redacted.
"We do not believe that these redactions are necessary," the Republican commissioners later wrote.
It was a strange twist. The Republicans on the FEC are typically the bloc aligned against further disclosure when it comes to campaigns and money. This case represented the reverse.
Behind the scenes, the GOP commissioners sought unsuccessfully to persuade their Democratic colleagues to unmask the pages. Democratic commissioners were still frustrated by the initial deadlock, which came despite the fact that the FEC's lawyers had said Crossroads GPS should have to register as a political group.
"It should not have been a difficult decision to investigate Crossroads GPS," Democratic FEC Commissioner Ann Ravel wrote in a New York Times op-ed this week about the commission's dysfunction.
Now the deadlocked commission is presented with a request to hand over the pages — or else. The Center for Competitive Politics, founded by former Republican FEC Commissioner Bradley Smith, aggressively fights campaign finance restrictions, and the missing pages could serve as a road map for political groups for how far a nonprofit can go without earning a rebuke from election officials.
The final line of the center's records request ominously reads: "Under FOIA law, the FEC has twenty days to reply before a lawsuit can be filed to compel disclosure of the document."