Watchdog Groups Ask Department of Justice to Use Criminal Statutes to Stop Crossroads GPS and American Future Fund From Violating Campaign Finance Laws

DOJ Has Statutory Obligation To Step In And Enjoin Use Of Tax Exempt Non Profits To Launder Secret Money And Manipulate Elections

WASHINGTON, Oct. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Yesterday, several watchdog groups dedicated to clean and honest elections sent a letter to the Department of Justice requesting that it immediately employ the criminal sanctions provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) to enjoin, investigate and prosecute Crossroads GPS and the American Future Fund for their "knowing and willful" violation of various provisions of the Act, such as failing to register as a political committee, failing to file political committee financial disclosure reports and failing to comply with the political committee organizational requirements.

"The conventional wisdom around Washington is that campaign finance violations can only be reviewed and adjudicated by the FEC using civil sanctions," said Kevin Zeese, attorney and spokesman for the watchdog groups. "This is wrong. Specifically, FECA provides for criminal sanctions, enforced by the Department of Justice, in the case of 'knowing and willful' violations of FECA that exceed specified monetary thresholds. See 2 U.S.C. section 437g(d). In the DOJ's own handbook on elections, it takes the position that 'in view of the enhanced criminal penalties for FECA crimes and the legislative history supporting their enactment, … all knowing and willful FECA violations should be considered for federal prosecution under one or more of the prosecutive theories….'"

For this reason, as well as the fact that the FEC cannot act in time to protect the 2010 elections, criminal investigations of potential FECA violations by Crossroads GPS and American Future Fund should be announced immediately and include, in addition to the organizations themselves, the individuals who established, manage, solicit funds for, and donate to the groups. From published reports, it appears that donors to these organizations have colluded with fundraisers and managers to violate federal election laws as well as tax and money laundering laws in order to protect their anonymity and information about how much money they have donated. If this information is confirmed by a criminal investigation, prosecutions should follow. Published reports also indicate that individuals who are personally well-versed in federal campaign finance laws are intimately involved in management, fundraising and funding of these groups which provides powerful evidence that they engaged in "knowing and willful" conduct.

President Obama last week said that the use of secret money laundered through 501c(4) groups is a "threat to our democracy." DNC Chair Tim Kaine called the threat the "biggest scandal since Watergate." The Department of Justice is responsible for removing such threats and can do so now by ensuring that potential "knowing and willful" violations of FECA are investigated and that actual "knowing and willful" violations are prosecuted and punished. Because the evidence of blatant FECA violations is so clear and the time before the election is so short, the watchdog groups asked the Department of Justice to act immediately to enjoin this crime in progress and ensure the integrity of our elections.

A copy of the letter to DOJ is here.

A copy of the Complaint to FEC is here.



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