Court opens way for FEC to reveal $ 1.7 million anonymous donor, member of Super PAC







Federal Election Commission

The Federal Election Commission has been investigating for years a complaint about how over a million dollars had been channeled through middlemen to a super PAC, Now or Never, based in Missouri. | John Shinkle / POLITICO

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The case involves a donation to a super PAC in 2012, which was channeled via an LLC and a conservative rights group.

By MAGGIE SEVERNS

An anonymous person who allegedly secretly channeled $ 1.7 million to a super PAC in 2012 will soon be revealed after a lengthy court fight – if a new ruling from the Washington court of appeal is not handed over to later, for consideration by the court.

The identity of this person remained secret for years as the Federal Election Commission investigated a complaint about how money was channeled through middlemen to a Missouri-based super PAC, Now or Never. . The group spent close to $ 8 million to promote GOP candidates in the 2012 elections, including Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin.

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Now or Never PAC is supposed to reveal its donors regularly under federal law, without ever disclosing the original source of the funds. He instead made a disclosure of a contribution of $ 1.7 million from the Union of American Conservatives, organizer of the annual conference on political action of the Conservatives.

But ACU was at least a step removed from the original donor. In investigating a complaint lodged by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics Watch Group in Washington, the FEC discovered that the money came from a donor and was sent via a Delaware LLC. , then the American Conservative Union, en route to Now or Never PAC.

The FEC reached an agreement with the ACU in 2017 on its role in the transfer of the gift and the ACU paid the FEC a fine of $ 350,000. Some parties, however, refused to cooperate with the FEC in this case, said Commissioner Ellen Weintraub in a statement issued late 2017, preventing the FEC to find the original source of funds.

The slow-moving case has been a major affair for advocates of transparency, including Weintraub and CREW, who see public information about very expensive political donors as a fundamental resource in the fight against corruption. corruption. Super PACs are supposed to disclose their donors and are not allowed to use transfer organizations, called "straw donors," to disguise their identities.

Two judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia joined the view that the plaintiffs – a trust and a trustee named "John Doe 1" and "John Doe 2" in the case – should be appointed by the FEC. A judge dissenting. It is not entirely clear whether "John Doe 1" or "John Doe 2" is the original donor or whether they, too, were passers-by for the $ 1.7 million contribution.

The complainants argued that the federal election law did not give the CEF the power to reveal its name, as it published information about its investigation of what had happened to Now or Never PAC. But Judge A. Raymond Randolph of the Circuit Court rejected this argument on the grounds that the court had previously recognized "deterring future violations and promoting the Commission's liability may justify disclosing more information than the minimum disclosures required by "the law.

And the complainants have not sufficiently shown that disclosure of their identity would undermine the right of their first amendment to participate in an election campaign without being harmed, Randolph said.

The plaintiffs "have not alleged that they would be subject to threats or reprisals," wrote Randolph, who wrote the court's opinion. "They claimed that disclosing their identity would" deter "them from engaging in political activities. But it does not distinguish them from others who contribute to the campaign. "

Weintraub, who now chairs the FEC, said in a statement tweet Friday, it plans to publish the names of donors "as soon as we know that this decision will not be reviewed".


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