The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Government Watchdogs Sue FEC for Failure to Investigate Coordination Between the Russian Government and President Trump's 2016 Campaign

The Federal Election Commission’s failure to act on a prior complaint from December 2016 effectively shields the Russian government and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign from accountability for violating federal election laws.


Nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations Free Speech For People and Campaign for Accountability today filed a federal lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in the U.S. District Court in D.C. They are seeking declaratory and injunctive relief for the Commission's failure to respond to a five-year-old complaint regarding the Russian government's political spending in the 2016 election and coordination with former President Trump's campaign.

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 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.

"Even today, despite multiple investigations, critical information about the money spent in the 2016 election is still unknown," said Ron Fein, Legal Director of Free Speech For People. "How much did the Russian Federation spend? When and for which efforts did it make the payments? How much (and which) of that spending was 'coordinated' with the Trump campaign? Answering these questions is the FEC's job, and they've sat on it for almost five years."

"The FEC owes the public a full and open accounting of any illegal 2016 campaign coordination," said Michelle Kuppersmith, Executive Director of Campaign for Accountability. "The FEC's failure to act robs the public of any insight into past election malfeasance and leaves bad actors undeterred from improperly meddling in the future. Transparent enforcement is as much about deterrence as restitution, and the FEC's continued failure to act provides neither."

Read the complaint here.

Free Speech For People is a national non-partisan non-profit organization founded on the day of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. FEC that works to defend our democracy and our Constitution.