FEC Releases Enforcement Documents

May 23, 2012

WASHINGTON – Today, Republican Members from the Committee on House Administration released the following statement after the Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) complied with the Committee’s request to make its confidential enforcement documents public:

“We are pleased the FEC is cooperating with the Committee in releasing its enforcement policies and procedures.   Until now, and contrary to the agency’s core mission, Americans engaging in the political process have been forced to navigate a labyrinth of election laws without adequate guidance or transparency to the enforcement process.  

“Like other federal enforcement agencies with investigative and punitive authority, the FEC is obligated to release its procedures to those subject to its actions – no exceptions. This release is an important step that will increase transparency in FEC operations and hopefully improve the understanding of, and adherence to, our complex election laws.  We thank the FEC for its cooperation and look forward to working with the agency as it continues to improve public access to its enforcement procedures.” 

On November 3, 2011, the Subcommittee on Elections held a hearing to review the policies and procedures of the Federal Election Commission.  Following a request from the Chairman of the Subcommittee, Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., FEC officials worked with Committee staff in identifying relevant documents.  The release includes the FEC’s Enforcement Manual, the Reports Analysis Division Review and Referral Procedures (RAD Manual), and the Audit Manual. As part of its discussions with the Committee, the FEC has committed to producing and releasing an updated Enforcement Manual to replace the existing 1997 manual.

In addition to the release its enforcement procedures, the FEC has made a significant number of important policy changes to improve the agency’s transparency, fairness, and due process since 2008. Some of the most notable changes include allowing those requesting an advisory opinion to appear before the Commission, having the Commission consider legal questions that arise in the report review or audit processes, disclosure of exculpatory information in the enforcement process, and giving audit respondents the right to appear at a Commission hearing before the Commission adopts an audit report. A list of 13 policies, procedures, and directives adopted since 2008 is available at https://www.fec.gov/members/hunter/Recent_Policies_Procedures_Directives.pdf.

The FEC’s policy changes and release of enforcement documents represent two steps toward improving the agency’s enforcement process. Greater transparency is an important measure to prevent outcomes like yesterday’s court decision requiring the FEC to pay attorney fees that the Committee estimates will exceed $100,000 in taxpayer funds. The court in that case found that the position advanced by some of the commissioners was not reasonable, and that the plaintiff “should not have had to file this suit at all.”  The Committee will continue to monitor the FEC’s enforcement activities to ensure that the agency does not incur additional taxpayer liability for advancing unreasonable interpretations of the law as adopted by Congress and interpreted by the courts.