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CREW v. FEC (D.D.C.): Regarding FEC Commissioners' Communications: 5/23/2011 - Complaint

CREW v. FEC (D.D.C.): Regarding FEC Commissioners' Communications: 5/23/2011 - Complaint

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Published by CREW
On May 23, 2011, CREW filed a lawsuit against the FEC based on the agency’s failure to produce any documents in response to a Freedom of Information Act request seeking correspondence between FEC Commissioners Matthew S. Peterson, Caroline C. Hunter, and Donald F. McGhan II and outside individuals and entities, CREW v. FEC (D.D.C.). CREW also is seeking all calendars and agendas for these commissioners as well as all written ex parte communications the commissioners sent to an FEC ethics officer. Through this FOIA request CREW seeks to learn the extent to which the three commissioners are complying with FEC regulations forbidding commissioners from engaging in ex parte communications with parties having business before the FEC.
On May 23, 2011, CREW filed a lawsuit against the FEC based on the agency’s failure to produce any documents in response to a Freedom of Information Act request seeking correspondence between FEC Commissioners Matthew S. Peterson, Caroline C. Hunter, and Donald F. McGhan II and outside individuals and entities, CREW v. FEC (D.D.C.). CREW also is seeking all calendars and agendas for these commissioners as well as all written ex parte communications the commissioners sent to an FEC ethics officer. Through this FOIA request CREW seeks to learn the extent to which the three commissioners are complying with FEC regulations forbidding commissioners from engaging in ex parte communications with parties having business before the FEC.

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Published by: CREW on May 24, 2011
Copyright:Public Domain

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INTHEUNITEDSTATESDISTRICTCOURTFORTHEDISTRICTOFCOLUMBIA
CITIZENSFORRESPONSIBILITYANDETHICSINWASHINGTON1400EyeStreet,N.W.,Suite450Washington,D.C.20005Plaintiff,
v.
FEDERALELECTIONCOMMISSION999EStreet,N.W.Washington,D.C.20463Defendant.CivilActionNo.
COMPLAINTFORDECLARATORYJUDGMENTANDINJUNCTIVERELIEF
1.ThisisanactionundertheFreedomofInformationAct("FOIA"),5
U.S.c.
§
552,asamended,challengingthefailure
of
theFederalElectionCommission("FEC"or"Commission")tofulfilltherequest
of
CitizensforResponsibilityandEthicsinWashington("CREW")forrecordsrelatedtocommunications
of
threeFECcommissionerswithindividualsandentitiesoutsidetheCommission,andthecalendarsandotherrecordations
of
meetingsandappointments
of
thesecommissioners.2.ThiscaseseeksdeclaratoryreliefthattheFECisinviolation
of
theFOIAforfailingtofulfill
plaintiffs
requestforrecords,andinjunctivereliefthattheFECimmediatelyandfullycomplywith
CREW's
requestundertheFOIA.
JURISDICTIONANDVENUE
3.ThisCourthasbothsubjectmatterjurisdictionoverthisactionandpersonaljurisdictionoverthepartiespursuantto5U.S.C.
§
552(a)(4)(B).ThisCourtalsohasjurisdiction
 
overthisactionpursuantto28U.S.C.
§
1331.Venueliesinthisdistrictunder5U.S.C.
§
552(a)(4)(B).4.PlaintiffCREWisanonprofitcorporation,organizedundersection501(c)(3)
of
theInternalRevenueCode.CREWiscommittedtoprotectingtheright
of
citizenstobeinformedabouttheactivities
of
governmentofficialsandtoensuringtheintegrity
of
governmentofficials.CREWseekstoempowercitizenstohaveaninfluentialvoiceingovernmentdecisionsandinthegovernmentaldecision-makingprocessthroughthedissemination
of
informationaboutpublicofficials,federalagenciesandentities,andtheiractions.Toadvanceitsmission,CREWusesacombination
of
research,litigation,andadvocacy.Aspart
of
itsresearch,CREWusesgovernmentrecordsmadeavailabletoitundertheFOIA.5.CREWhasinvestedconsiderableorganizationalresourcesinpushingtheU.S.governmenttotakeethicsissuesseriously.CREWmonitorscloselythelawsandrulesapplicabletogovernmentagencies.6.CREWwillanalyzetheinformationitreceivesthatisresponsivetoitsrequestandwillshareitwiththepublicthroughmemoranda,reports,orpressreleases.
In
addition,CREWwilldisseminateanydocumentsitacquiresfromitsrequesttothepublicthroughitsownwebsite,www.citizensforethics.org,aswellasanotherwebsiteonwhichCREW,amongothers,postsdocumentsforpublicreview,www.scribd.com.CREW'swebsitealsocontainslinkstothousands
of
pages
of
documentsCREWacquiredfrommultipleFOIArequests.7.CREWisharmedbythe
FEC's
failuretocomplywiththeFOIAbecausethatfailureharmsCREW'sabilitytoprovidefull,accurateandcurrentinformationtothepubliconamatter
of
publicinterest.5U.S.C.
§
552(a)(6.Absentthiscriticalinformation,CREWcannot
2
 
advanceitsmission
of
educatingthepublictoensurethepubliccontinuestohaveavitalvoiceingovernmentdecisions.8.Defendant
FEC
isanagencywithinthemeaning
of
5U.S.C.
§
552(f).
The
FEChaspossession
and
control
of
therequestedrecords
and
isresponsibleforfulfilling
plaintiffs
FOIArequest.
STATUTORY
FRAMEWORK
TheFreedom
of
InformationAct
9.TheFOIA,5U.S.C.
§
552,requiresagencies
of
thefederalgovernmenttoreleaserequestedrecordstothepublicunlessoneormorespecificstatutoryexemptionsapply.10.Anagency
must
respondtoapartymakingaFOIArequestwithin20workingdays,notifyingthatparty
of
atleast
theagency's
determinationwhetheror
not
tofulfill
the
requestand
of
the
requester'srighttoappealthe
agency's
determinationtotheagencyhead.5U.S.C.
§
552(a)(6)(A)(i).11.In"unusualcircumstances,"anagency
may
delayitsresponsetoa
FOIA
requestorappeal,
butmust
providenoticeand
"the
dateon
which
adeterminationisexpectedtobedispatched."5U.S.C.
§
552(a)(6)(B).12.ThisCourthasjurisdiction,
upon
receipt
of
acomplaint,
"to
enjoin
the
agencyfromwithholdingagencyrecords
and
toordertheproduction
of
anyagencyrecordsimproperly
withheld
fromthecomplainant."5U.S.C.§552(a)(4)(B).
FACTSUNDERLYINGPLAINTIFF'SCLAIM
FOR
RELIEF
13.On
March
7,2011,
CREW
sentaFOIArequesttothe
FEC
byfacsimileseeking:(1)allcorrespondencerelatedtoany
and
all
FEC
businessbetweenCommissioners
Matthew
S.3

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