Group Wants the FEC to Release Redacted Crossroads GPS Document

National Journal
Shane Goldmacher
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Shane Goldmacher
April 4, 2014, 9:57 a.m.

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.”

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