A conservative watchdog group is asking the Federal Election Commission to investigate whether Hillary Clinton broke the law by conducting campaign activities before declaring her candidacy, according to a complaint filed on Thursday.
The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) said Clinton and the group Ready for Hillary may have violated federal campaign regulations by failing to disclose contributions while Clinton was acting as a candidate.
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While there are rules against running a campaign without officially declaring a candidacy, most prospective candidates conduct preliminary work during a legal "testing the waters" period. However, FACT argues that Clinton’s campaign activities have been much more extensive than this exploratory window allows.
"Based upon numerous media reports, Hillary Clinton’s activities have extended beyond merely testing the waters to determine whether a candidacy for president is feasible, but she should be deemed to be a candidate under the [Federal Election Campaign] Act," said the complaint.
"Consequently, she is bound by the Act’s contribution and reporting requirements, which do not appear to have been met."
Politico reported Wednesday that Clinton’s team has hired at least six Ready for Hillary staffers in preparation for the official campaign launch.
Citing news reports about Clinton hiring campaign operatives and scouting out campaign headquarters, FACT called on the FEC to "conduct an immediate and thorough investigation" into whether her actions were within the law.
"Candidates should not be permitted to avoid campaign finance and election laws simply by claiming they are testing the waters, especially when their actions clearly demonstrate otherwise," said the complaint.
Legal experts have previously told the Washington Free Beacon that there is a very high threshold for the FEC to find someone acting as a candidate before declaring. However, FACT’s director, Matthew Whitaker, a former U.S. Attorney, said the law is clear and argued that the FEC needs to enforce its own rules to ensure public transparency.
"What the law says is once you do things that are only done by a campaign, for example, approving budgets, hiring staff, and looking for a campaign office, that you’ve crossed the line, that you are no longer testing the waters," said Whitaker.
"The FEC needs to do their job, and needs to investigate and should conclude that voter lists put together by political action committees for the sole reason to turn over to a candidate, is a violation of their rules," Whitaker added. "It’s done solely to hide and not share with the public information that’s relevant to her campaign and her candidacy."
A spokesman for Clinton did not return a request for comment.