And so the FEC staff’s third report presented a novel theory. The staff argued that AIP ought to be judged on what it spent per “calendar year.” By shortening the timeline, and looking only at AIP’s spending in 2008—an election year—the staff argued AIP had violated campaign law.
The Republican commissioners were appalled, noting that FEC staff had always taken a multiyear view of expenditures, including when it came to cases against liberal groups, like the League of Conservation Voters or the Moveon.org Voter Fund. The FEC staff also sought to impose this new standard after the fact, with no notice to election players and no input from the commissioners.
Vice Chairman McGahn’s statement is scathing. “Here,” he writes, FEC staff “could be seen as manipulating the timeline to reach the conclusion that AIP is a political committee. . . . Such after-the-fact determinations create the appearance of impropriety, whether or not such impropriety exists.”
The broader AIP case is, in fact, beyond improper. It’s fishy. The Obama campaign takes its vendetta against a political opponent to the FEC. The FEC staff, as part of an extraordinary campaign to bring down AIP and other 501(c)(4) groups, reaches out to Lois Lerner, the woman overseeing IRS targeting. Mr. McGahn has also noted that FEC staff has in recent years had an improperly tight relationship with the Justice Department—to which the Obama campaign also complained about AIP.