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Federal Court Rules Clinton Campaign and PAC Violated Election Laws

 July 10, 2024

A federal appeals court has ruled that Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign and the liberal super PAC Correct the Record improperly coordinated in a multimillion-dollar effort to support her campaign, violating federal election laws.

The case involving Mrs. Clinton has now been sent back to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to address these violations and clarify the Internet exemption rule, as the Washington Examiner reports.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued the decision, highlighting that the Clinton campaign and Correct the Record crossed federal election lines by coordinating efforts without reporting them as campaign expenses.

This coordination involved setting up a "Benghazi Hearing War Room" and conducting a targeted effort against critics.

Court Criticizes FEC's Inaction

The court criticized the FEC for not investigating the complaint, sending the case back to the commission. The court stated that the "internet exemption" was misused to avoid campaign spending restrictions.

This exemption, intended for free internet political commentary, was not meant to cover coordinated expenditures.

David Brock, founder of Correct the Record, and Hillary Clinton will not face punishment. The court faulted the FEC for its "capacious construction" of the internet exemption, emphasizing that it was stretched beyond lawful limits.

Campaign Legal Center Challenges Dismissal

The decision followed a challenge by the Washington-based Campaign Legal Center. During the FEC's deadlock on the issue, the commission was down to two commissioners, complicating the investigation.

Former FEC Chairman Lee Goodman noted that the court saved the internet exemption but set limits on permissible internet-related spending.

"The court sent the matter back to the commission to clarify which input costs are directly related to the production and dissemination of free internet communications, like staff time and production costs, versus costs that are only tangentially related to internet communications," Goodman said.

FEC Chairman Sean Cooksey Responds

FEC Chairman Sean Cooksey expressed his intent to review the court's opinion and consider next steps, including a possible review by the Supreme Court. "Regardless, I will continue to fight for internet freedom at the FEC and a robust regulatory exemption for political activities online, consistent with the law," Cooksey stated.

The court's decision underscored that the internet exemption was at risk due to the Clinton campaign and Correct the Record placing too much weight on it. Goodman believes the FEC can provide clear guidance to protect free speech on the internet while distinguishing between production costs and tangential costs related to internet communications.

Clinton Campaign's Missteps

The Clinton campaign's misuse of the internet exemption has sparked significant debate on the scope and limitations of this rule. The "Benghazi Hearing War Room" and efforts to discredit critics were central to the court's findings of improper coordination.

The court's ruling emphasized that the internet exemption should not be a loophole for unreported campaign expenditures. The FEC's failure to act on the complaint prompted the court to intervene and demand a thorough investigation and clarification of the exemption's application.

Implications for Future Campaigns

This ruling has significant implications for future political campaigns and the use of super PACs. It calls for stricter adherence to federal election laws and transparent reporting of campaign expenses, especially in the context of internet activities.

The court's decision highlights the need for the FEC to provide clearer guidelines on what constitutes permissible internet-related spending. This clarity will help prevent future misuse of the internet exemption and ensure a level playing field in political campaigning.


In conclusion, the federal appeals court's ruling on Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign and Correct the Record marks a pivotal moment in election law enforcement.

The decision underscores the importance of transparent campaign expenditure reporting and the proper application of the internet exemption. The FEC's forthcoming actions and clarifications will be crucial in shaping the future landscape of political campaigning and maintaining the integrity of the electoral process.