Plaintiffs’ file reply in support of a motion for oral arguments in Free Speech For People v. Federal Election Commission

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 10, 2024) – Nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations Free Speech For People and Campaign for Accountability have filed a reply in support of their motion for oral argument. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) had previously moved to dismiss the case in 2022. If granted, this would allow the FEC to evade judicial review of its decision to close the underlying administrative file without investigating serious and credible assertions that the Trump Campaign and the Russian Federation violated federal campaign finance laws leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

The FEC is now discouraging the court from holding an oral hearing on its motion to dismiss. However, the plaintiffs argue that the FEC’s opposition to their motion for oral argument is rooted in a woefully inadequate summary of the issues now before the court. They assert that the facts and legal arguments presented in this case are complex and consequential, warranting oral argument.

In December 2016, Free Speech For People and Campaign for Accountability filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against the Russian Federation and the Trump campaign. The 2016 administrative complaint alleged that the Russian government paid for computer hacks, social media posts, and paid political advertisements to influence the 2016 election, and that the Trump campaign engaged in “coordination” with the Russian government. 

“Coordination” is a specific legal standard under the Federal Election Campaign Act and the FEC’s regulations, which does not require an agreement between the parties. The investigation that the FEC was asked to conduct would, therefore, have been distinct from the Mueller investigation, which focused on “conspiracy” and the higher burden of criminal offenses. The organizations argue that the FEC’s nearly five-year delay in acting on their initial complaint was contrary to the law and deprived the plaintiffs and the American public of vital information regarding campaign financing in 2016 and the potential use of online platforms to corrupt our democracy–information that was not revealed by the Mueller investigation or other investigations of the 2020 election.

The consequences of this case have serious implications for both the plaintiffs and American voters. As stated in the brief: “If the Court grants the FEC’s motion, the plaintiffs and voters in this country will be deprived of the opportunity to have a full, impartial judicial review by this Court of the FEC’s decision to close the file without investigating serious transgressions by the Trump Campaign and the Russian Federation. And if the FEC’s motion is granted, it will be because a non-majority of the Commission indicated that they would have exercised prosecutorial discretion to reject the reason-to-believe motion even though the Commission already rejected a prosecutorial discretion motion.”

Read the reply in support of a motion for oral arguments here.

Read the complaint here