Presidential Commission to Meet Today as Court Denies FACA Injunction

[Image via whitehouse.gov]

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity will conduct its first public meeting today in Washington, DC’s Old Executive Office Building (above) after a federal court denied a request for an injunction against the Commission for failure to make the meetings public under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein has more:

A federal judge has turned down an effort to force President Donald Trump’s controversial voter fraud commission to open its first official meeting to in-person, public attendance and to force disclosure of more records about the group’s work.

U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said there wasn’t enough indication that the panel planned to defy a federal sunshine law, particularly after the commission published thousands of pages of information online and announced plans to make more data public in a timely fashion.

Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling said there was no sign that the commission’s procedures were impeding public debate about its actions, particularly a hotly-debated request that states turn over public voter registration data for study by the panel.

“There is no doubt that the Commission and its request for voter roll information have generated substantial public interest and debate. Nonetheless, Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that, absent preliminary injunctive relief, its ability to engage in this public debate would be substantially impaired in a manner that is both ‘certain and great,'” wrote Kollar-Kotelly, an appointee of President Bill Clinton.

The meeting will be livestreamed online, which plaintiffs argued didn’t comply with FACA but the Commission argued was necessary because the Vice President will attend:

The panel is planning to meet Wednesday in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the White House complex. Commission chair Vice President Mike Pence is expected to attend, which officials said presented security concerns that preclude attendance by the general public—at least for this session..

Kollar-Kotelly said the Trump administration’s plan to stream the commission meeting over the internet was sufficient to meet the requirement for public access, according to federal rules interpreting the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

“The regulations anticipate that some advisory committee meetings will be made publicly accessible via internet access, and that this is permissible so long as this method is ‘reasonably accessible to the public,’ and can accommodate ‘a reasonable number of interested members of the public,” the judge wrote. “Based on Defendants’ representations, the livestreaming service offered for the July 19 meeting appears likely to satisfy both of these requirements, and indeed will offer more members of the public the opportunity to observe proceedings than had only physical access been permitted.”

FACA will be an interesting lens through which to observe the panel’s activities, given the intense interest in both the Commission’s overall mission and its recent hotly-debated and widely-refused request to states for voter data. The court denied the injunction “without prejudice”, meaning that plaintiffs are not barred from returning if they seek further relief. It’s a very good bet they will.

The Commission’s first meeting will take place at 11:00am Eastern time today. The agenda can be found on the Commission’s new blog/webpage, and the live streaming link is https://www.whitehouse.gov/live.

Tune in … and stay tuned!

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