A right-leaning campaign-finance group filed a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission on Monday to obtain information about the agency’s review of Crossroads GPS, a conservative nonprofit group founded by Republican political strategist Karl Rove.
The FEC’s general counsel recommended in late-2012 that the commission start an investigation of whether Crossroads GPS should register as a political committee because of its political activities. Such an action would require the group to disclose its donors, which would make it less attractive for contributors who want to keep their advocacy funding secret.
The Center for Competitive Politics has asked for an unpublished report on the FEC’s review of Crossroads GPS, but the agency has declined to provide the document under a Freedom of Information Act request, citing an exemption that allows agencies to withhold details of their deliberative processes.
Government-transparency advocates have criticized the Obama administration for its increased use of the exemption in recent years.
The Center for Competitive Politics said in a statement Monday that the FEC report is “of great importance to the regulated community” because it would help groups understand the general counsel’s thinking when it comes to interpreting the law.
Groups such as Crossroads GPS, which are tax-exempt under section 501 (c)(4) of the tax code, must be primarily engaged in “social welfare” practices. But regulators have struggled in recent years with how much political activity is allowed for the organizations.
The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service are developing new guidelines to help clarify what type of activities are prohibited for 501(c)(4)s and how much engagement in those activities would disqualify a group from tax-exempt status.
The center filed its lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
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