Maine Secretary of State Dunlap Election Commission Lawsuit


On November 16, Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap filed a motion asking a federal court for a preliminary injunction as part of his ongoing lawsuit against President Trump’s election commission, of which he is a member.

Dunlap originally sued on November 9 to force the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (PACEI) to stop withholding key information needed to fulfill his role as a commissioner. In response, members of the commission, including Vice Chair Kris Kobach and commissioner Hans von Spakovsky have launched hyperbolic attacks and called on Dunlap to be removed from the PACEI.

The motion filed today asks the U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to order the PACEI to immediately provide the requested documents and enable Dunlap to participate in PACEI business.

Dunlap’s motion is below, followed by more information about the lawsuit.

Motion for Preliminary Injunction:

Original Post: November 9, 2017

Overview and Fact Sheet:

On November 9, Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to enforce his rights as a member of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (PACEI).

Read Secretary Dunlap’s press release here.

The lawsuit alleges that the commission, led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, has violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) by denying Dunlap and other commissioners access to key documents and excluding them from much of the commission’s work. The Executive Office of the President (EOP) is also a named defendant, as the commission’s electronic records are believed to be maintained on the EOP’s computer network.

FACA requires the PACEI to provide all commissioners with equal information as the group makes decisions and conducts its inquiry. Dunlap has repeatedly sought access to commission records – including meeting materials, witness invitations, and correspondence with other commissioners – but has been rebuffed on each occasion.

As a last resort, Dunlap is filing the lawsuit to force the PACEI to comply with FACA and provide the information and documents necessary for him to meaningfully participate as a commissioner. Dunlap’s suit is based on the 1999 DC Circuit Court decision in Cummock v. Gore, in which the court held that commissioners may not be denied access to information. Dunlap is represented by nonpartisan ethics watchdog American Oversight and the law firm of Patterson Belknap, based in New York City.


On May 11, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order creating the PACEI, designating Vice President Pence as chair and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as vice chair. Dunlap was appointed to the commission the same day, and he is currently one of four Democratic members of the now 11-member body.

In a February email sent before the PACEI was announced, commissioner Hans von Spakovsky advocated for excluding Democrats and even “mainstream Republicans” from the body, arguing that they would obstruct the commission’s work. Even though Democrats were ultimately appointed to the commission, Dunlap’s experience demonstrates that the PACEI is effectively excluding them.

The PACEI Has Repeatedly Denied Key Information to Dunlap

Dunlap, despite serving as a commissioner, has been denied access to documents, plans, and schedules of the PACEI, preventing him from participating in its work. He has made repeated efforts to take part in substantive discussions of the PACEI, but he has been rebuffed and provided only the barest logistical information he needs to physically participate in meetings of the commission.

On June 28, the PACEI sent a letter to all 50 states and the District of Columbia requesting voter roll information. Dunlap was informed of the letter only a few hours before it was sent, without being provided any advance opportunity to consult with the other commission members about it.

Dunlap was given only minimal details before PACEI’s first two formal meetings – on July 19 and September 12 – and was not provided with information on key topics, including how witnesses were selected or the objective of the meetings.

Dunlap has received no notice of any future meetings of the commission, even though an outside activist group, the Minnesota Voters Alliance, has already sent out a fundraising email announcing its leader would be testifying at a December meeting of the commission.

The PACEI has not provided Dunlap with the identities or assignments of any staff working for the commission, apart from executive director Andrew Kossack, and it did not inform Dunlap when a staff researcher working for the commission was arrested on child pornography charges.

On October 17 and November 1, Dunlap wrote to Kossack requesting copies of commission records, including correspondence between commissioners, communications with federal agencies, and information regarding meetings, witnesses, and staff. According to a PACEI court filing in another pending lawsuit, the commission has generated at least 800 such documents to which Dunlap should be entitled access. To date, the commission has not shared this information with Dunlap.

The Federal Advisory Committee Act and the PACEI

FACA requires that “records, reports, transcripts, minutes, appendices, working papers, drafts, studies, agenda, or other documents made available to or prepared for or by each advisory committee shall be available for public inspection and copying.” Under the law, the commission is obligated to make these same materials available to all commissioners.

By withholding all but the most basic details, the leadership of the PACEI is depriving Dunlap of the resources and information he needs to carry out his duties, which violates the FACA regulations by which the commission must act.

Complaint: Dunlap v. PACEI


Related Blog Posts

April 3, 2020

News Roundup: Whose Stockpile, and Which States?

Broward County - Florida, Bureau of Industry and Security, California Office of the Governor, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Duval County - Florida, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Florida Office of the Governor, Food and Drug Administration, Gadsden County - Florida, Hendry County - Florida, Jackson County - Florida, King County - Washington, Leon County - Florida, Miami-Dade County - Florida, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, New York Office of the Governor, Office of Management and Budget, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Ohio Office of the Governor, Oklahoma Department of Health, Oklahoma Office of the Governor, Osceola County - Florida, Texas Attorney General, Texas Office of the Governor, Washington Office of the Governor
March 20, 2020

News Roundup: Testing, Messaging and Missed Chances

Department of Commerce, Department of Justice, Department of the Treasury, Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, Federal Communications Commission, Florida Office of the Attorney General, Georgia Attorney General, Harris County - Texas, Nevada Department of the Administration, Office of Management and Budget, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Texas Attorney General
December 20, 2019

News Roundup: Beyond Impeachment — The Investigations Continue

Administration for Children and Families, Congress, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Customs and Border Protection, Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Interior, Department of Transportation, Federal Communications Commission, Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, Food and Drug Administration, Government Accountability Office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Office of Management and Budget
October 1, 2019

We’re Suing the State Department for Giuliani-Ukraine Documents

Department of State
Investigation Update
September 4, 2019

Lawsuit Seeks Records from Investigation into Potential Trump Campaign-Finance Violations

Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Investigation Update
January 28, 2019

Court Orders Trump Administration to Turn Over More Voter-Fraud Commission Records

White House
Investigation Update
February 23, 2018

FCC Commissioner Calls for Trump’s Reelection, Violates Hatch Act

Federal Communications Commission
February 6, 2018

Voter Fraud Commission Asked Texas to Highlight Hispanic Surnames in Voter Data

White House
Investigation Update
September 18, 2017

Austin Evers Discusses Trump Inaugural Funds on MSNBC

September 2, 2017

DOJ Confirms Trump Lied in “Wiretap” Tweets

Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Investigation Update
August 1, 2017

American Oversight Obtains Attorney General Sessions SF-86 Signature Page

Department of Justice
Investigation Update
July 28, 2017

Watchdog Group Calls for Hatch Act Investigation of Gorka

White House
July 27, 2017

Call for OSC Investigation of Pruitt Travel to Oklahoma

Environmental Protection Agency
Investigation Update
July 21, 2017

American Oversight Calls for Resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Investigation Update
July 13, 2017

DOJ Releases Redacted Page of Sessions’s SF-86 to American Oversight

Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Investigation Update
July 12, 2017

American Oversight Demands Release of Pence-Kobach Commission Records

Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, General Services Administration
May 24, 2017

After American Oversight Lawsuit, DOJ Confirms that Sessions Lied about Russian Contacts

Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Investigation Update
April 19, 2017

American Oversight Sues DOJ for Release of Trump Tower Wiretap Records, Russia Investigation Documents

Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, White House
Investigation Update