On June 14, 2021, the Commission filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana against Defend Louisiana PAC and Taylor Townsend, in his official capacity as treasurer (defendants). The Commission seeks a declaration that defendants violated the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) by inadequately disclosing more than $90,000 in independent expenditures. The FEC also seeks an order requiring defendants to amend their disclosure reports, an appropriate civil penalty, and a permanent injunction against future similar violations.
The Commission’s complaint alleges that during the 2016 election for United States Senate in Louisiana, Defend Louisiana PAC, an independent expenditure-only political committee (Super PAC), failed to describe adequately the purpose of eight independent expenditures totaling $45,500.
In addition, the PAC failed to include on its post-runoff report three independent expenditures totaling $45,475.65 that it had disclosed on a 48-hour report prior to the election.
The Act requires political committees to register with the Commission, appoint a treasurer and file regular reports disclosing their receipts and disbursements – including independent expenditures. Independent expenditures are those that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified federal candidate and are not made in concert or cooperation with or at the request or suggestion of the candidate, the candidate’s committee or agents, or a political party committee or its agents. When itemizing these expenditures, political committees must describe the “purpose of the independent expenditure” sufficiently and specifically enough to inform the public as to how the committee used its funds.
If a political committee makes independent expenditures for an election that aggregate to $10,000 or more in a calendar year through 20 days before the election, the committee must report these expenses on a 48-hour report. This same information must be reported again on the committee’s next regularly-scheduled FEC report.
The Commission initiated enforcement proceedings against defendants after reviewing information in the normal course of carrying out its supervisory responsibilities. On July 2, 2020, the Commission voted 4-0 to find probable cause to believe that defendants had violated the Act. Defendants did not respond to attempts to negotiate a conciliation agreement. Therefore, the Commission voted 6-0 to authorize this suit on March 8, 2021.
The FEC seeks a declaration that defendants Defend Louisiana PAC and Taylor Townsend, in his official capacity as treasurer, violated the Act by failing to provide adequate purpose statements for eight independent expenditures and by failing to disclose three independent expenditures. The FEC also seeks a civil penalty of $41,056.00 and a permanent injunction against future similar violations.
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