An anti-Hillary Clinton PAC filed a lawsuit on Thursday to compel the Federal Election Commission to determine whether the pro-Clinton Super PAC Ready for Hillary is violating campaign finance laws.
The Stop Hillary PAC originally filed a complaint with the FEC in January, claiming that Ready for Hillary may be illegally conducting authorized campaign activity on behalf of Hillary Clinton.
According to the complaint, Ready for Hillary used an email list owned by Hillary Clinton’s Senate committee to send out fundraising letters. Ready for Hillary also allegedly sent out the solicitations using the email address info@HillaryClinton.com—a website that the complaint says is owned by Clinton’s authorized committee.
The Ready for Hillary email stated “now is the time to get our support for Hillary organized and ready for 2016,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit said the fundraising email would have been “‘deployed’ by Hillary Clinton or a vendor employed by the authorized committee to do so” and would “require approval by the list owner, in this case Hillary Clinton, of the specific content being deployed.”
Dan Backer, an attorney for Stop Hillary PAC, said the email was “an act of authorization. Hillary Clinton and/or her agents authorized a communication that calls for the nomination, election of a federal candidate, namely herself.”
He said that because the fundraising email explicitly mentioned support for Hillary Clinton in a federal election, this constituted authorized campaign activity.
“They screwed up,” said Backer. “They didn’t pay attention to the law. They broke the law, and they broke the law in a very big way.”
Stop Hillary PAC said the FEC failed to act on its original complaint within the required 120-day window. The group asked the D.C. district court on Thursday to order the FEC to take action within 30 days.
“They’re covering up and shielding Hillary Clinton much like the State Department is with the FOIA requests,” said Backer.
If the FEC determines that Ready for Hillary is acting as an authorized campaign committee, it could open the PAC up to fines and other penalties. Any contributions it has accepted in excess of federal campaign limits, as well as money from unions and corporations, could be deemed illegal.
“In that case, every contribution that that alleged PAC has raised from a corporate entity was illegal,” said Backer. “Every contribution they raised in excess of $2,600 was illegal.”
Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, said the FEC often takes up to two years to resolve administrative complaints.
“It’s typical for the FEC to take well in excess of a year to handle relatively simple, straightforward complaints,” said Ryan.
While Ryan said he has not reviewed Stop Hillary PAC’s specific allegations, he did say it is “very common for political committees to rent or sell their email list.”
Ready for Hillary did not immediately return request for comment.