Center for Public Integrity sues Federal Election Commission for documents

Election regulator fails to respond fully to FOIA request



The Center for Public Integrity today filed a federal lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission — an agency that exists to enforce and administer the nation’s campaign finance laws — for failing to release documents requested last year under the Freedom of Information Act.

Last August, Center for Public Integrity senior political reporter Dave Levinthal filed a FOIA request asking the FEC to provide “any and all scheduling documents and/or records” for the FEC’s six commissioners covering a period from Oct. 21, 2013, to Aug. 14, 2014.

The request specifically asked for “calendars, schedules, emails and itineraries that list or account for commissioners’ meetings, whereabouts or travels when conducting government business or traveling to/from engagements or duties involving government business.”

FEC officials last year indicated to the Center for Public Integrity that they’d release the requested documents before 2015 began.

But it wasn’t until May 19, 2015, that the FEC produced an initial “interim response” to the Center for Public Integrity’s original request. This interim response included the office schedule of just one of the six FEC commissioners — current FEC Chairwoman Ann Ravel, who in 2014 served as the agency’s vice chairwoman.

Office schedules or related communications for commissioners Lee Goodman, Caroline Hunter, Matthew Petersen, Steven Walther and Ellen Weintraub were not included, and to date, have not been released. The FEC has not explained why, although it has confirmed that it possesses additional documents responsive to the Center for Public Integrity's FOIA request.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to file a lawsuit to obtain what should be publicly available information,” said Deputy Executive Editor John Dunbar, who oversees the Center for Public Integrity’s political coverage. “But we could see no other option.”

The Center for Public Integrity is one of the country's oldest and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news organizations and winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting.

Its “Consider the Source” project reports on how money influences politics and both the federal and state levels and frequently writes about the FEC’s activities.

This story was co-published with Poynter.

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