AO 2012-38 – Socialist Workers Party
The Federal Election Commission has renewed until December 31, 2016, the partial reporting exemption for the Socialist Workers Party, the Socialist Workers Party National Campaign Committee, other Socialist Workers Party committees, and authorized committees of Federal candidates of the Socialist Workers Party (henceforth "SWP" or "SWP committees"). The Commission has renewed the exemption based on a long history of systematic harassment of the SWP, including evidence of harassment since 2009 (when the exemption was last granted).
Following this case law, the Commission must first determine whether the SWP continues to maintain its status as a minor party. 424 U.S. at 68-74. Previously, the Commission has determined that the SWP is a minor party. AO 2009-01 (SWP). As evidenced by the low vote totals for SWP candidates, the lack of success in ballot access, and the small total amounts of contributions to SWP committees, the Commission concludes that the SWP remains a minor party that is out of the mainstream.
Next, the Commission must weigh three factors:
There is a long history of threats, violence, and harassment against the SWP and its supporters by Federal and local law enforcement agencies and private parties. The Commission has consistently viewed the SWP’s requests for exemption from the Act’s reporting requirements in light of this “long history of governmental harassment of the SWP.” AO 2009-01. Reviewing information presented with this request indicates that the SWP and persons associated with it have continued to experience harassment from private sources from the end of 2009 to the present. Although some of the alleged incidents of harassment may seem minor or subject to differing interpretations, there are a number of examples, such as firings and instances of workplace intimidation, as well as verbal threats and harassment, that legitimately raise concern by those associated with the SWP, particularly when these examples are taken together. Considering that these incidents occurred over four years, there are relatively more of them annually than incidents that took place during the six-year period before the Commission when it granted the most recent extension of the partial reporting exemption in AO 2009-01.
Ultimately, the governmental interest in obtaining the names, addresses, and other identifying information of SWP contributors and vendors doing business with the SWP committees in connection with Federal elections remains very low and continues to be outweighed by the reasonable probability of threats, harassment, or reprisals resulting from such disclosure. The SWP has experienced a decline in episodes of harassment of serious magnitude, but has submitted some credible evidence of threats and intimidation. When weighed together with the very small amounts of money raised and the significant past history, the recent evidence of harassment thus satisfies the requirement of demonstrating a reasonable probability of harassment.
Thus, the Commission granted the SWP committees a partial reporting exemption as provided for in the consent agreements and continued in previous advisory opinions. As required in previous advisory opinions, each SWP committee must assign a code number to each individual or entity from whom or which it receives one or more contributions aggregating in excess of $200 in a calendar year or applicable election cycle (depending on the type of committee). See AO 2009-01. Further, the SWP must comply with all of the remaining requirements of the Act and Commission regulations.
At least 60 days prior to December 31, 2016, the SWP may submit a new advisory opinion request seeking a renewal of the exemption. If a request is submitted, the Commission will consider the factual information then presented as to harassment after December 31, 2012, or the lack thereof, in making a decision regarding renewal.
Date Issued: 4/25/2013; 12 Pages
(Posted 5/3/2013; By: Christopher Berg)
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