A month ago we wrote about Devin Nunes' third lawsuit against his critics over their speech, and noted that he was promising in the press that more lawsuits were coming. We noted that the latest lawsuit was slightly odd in that he actually filed it in California, rather than Virginia (as with his first two lawsuits), and in California he could face real anti-SLAPP penalties (i.e., paying the other side's legal fees). Perhaps that's why that lawsuit was not actually filed by Nunes himself, but rather his campaign. If it got tossed out via anti-SLAPP, then suckers who donated to his campaign would foot the bill, rather than Nunes directly himself. Either way, we'll likely never find out because as suddenly as that case was filed, it's now been dismissed by Nunes. Amusingly, Nunes' lawyer is claiming victory:
“We gathered further evidence which supports the plaintiff’s overriding concerns that dark money is being used to influence our elections,” Kapetan said. “Given the new evidence recently discovered, the Nunes campaign committee voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit and the allegations underlining the lawsuit will be incorporated in a (racketeering) lawsuit filed in Virginia today.”
And that brings us to the new lawsuit that Nunes filed on Wednesday. It's a $10 million racketeering (RICO) case against Fusion GPS and Glenn Simpson along with the Campaign for Accountability. You may recall them from such past news as the infamous "Steele Dossier." Nunes has spent months insisting (incorrectly) that the Steele Dossier is some evidence of some massive overreach by US law enforcement or the intelligence community (leaving aside that under the previous administration Nunes was one of the most vocal cheerleaders for increased surveillance powers of the intelligence community) to spy on Americans. Yet when those powers may have been used (well within the law) to do surveillance on his friends, suddenly he's clutching pearls?
Anyway, the new lawsuit is a real piece of work. It's alleging racketeering by GPS Fusion and the Campaign for Accountability. As Ken "Popehat" White famously notes, IT'S NOT RICO, DAMMIT, and this case is no exception.
The Defendants are persons associated in fact (a RICO enterprise) who engage in interstate commerce by the use of one or more instrumentalities, including, but not limited to, the Internet, computers, telephones, mails and facsimile. In 2018, the Defendants received income derived, directly or indirectly, from a pattern of racketeering activity and have used or invested such income, directly or indirectly, in the establishment or operation of an enterprise engaged in, or the activities of which affect, interstate commerce. Through a pattern of racketeering activity, involving acts of wire fraud in violation of Title 18 U.S.C. § 1343 and acts of obstruction of justice in violation of Title 18 U.S.C. §§ 1503(a), 1512(b), 1512(d) and 1513(e), the Defendants have maintained, directly or indirectly, an interest in or control of an enterprise which is engaged in, or the activities of which affect, interstate commerce. While associated with such enterprise, the Defendants conducted or participated, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of such enterprise’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity. Between 2018 and the present, the Defendants have engaged in activity that is prohibited by Title 18 U.S.C. §§ 1962(a), 1962(b), and 1962(c).
The Defendants’ ongoing and continuous racketeering activities are part of a joint and systematic effort to intimidate, harass, threaten, influence, interfere with, impede, and ultimately to derail Plaintiff’s congressional investigation into Russian intermeddling in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. In furtherance of their conspiracy, the Defendants, acting in concert and with others, filed fraudulent and retaliatory “ethics” complaints against Plaintiff that were solely designed to harass and intimidate Plaintiff, to undermine his Russia investigation, and to protect Simpson, Fusion GPS and others from criminal referrals.
Plaintiff was injured in his business, property and reputation by Defendants’ racketeering activity and tortious misconduct. Plaintiff brings this action (a) to recover money damages for injuries caused by the Defendants’ racketeering activity, (b) for disgorgement of the ill-gotten gains and fruits of Defendants’ unlawful enterprise, (c) to impose reasonable restrictions on Defendants’ future activities, including Defendants’ use of fraudulent opposition research and fraudulent “ethics” complaints to intimidate members of Congress and other law enforcement officers in the performance of their official duties, (d) to enjoin the Defendants from committing wire fraud and from obstructing justice, and (e) to order the dissolution or reorganization of Fusion GPS and the CfA so as to prevent or restrain the Defendants from committing fraud, lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), Department of Justice (“DOJ”), Congress and Senate, obstructing justice, and violating Title 18 U.S.C. § 1962 in the future.
The details are basically that Nunes thinks that political research against him and corresponding ethics complaints are racketeering. That is not how any of this works. Indeed, if opposition research and filing ethics complaints is racketeering, basically every politician might be guilty of racketeering.
As noted by Nunes' lawyer, it is true that this new lawsuit includes some overlap with the California lawsuit that was just dropped -- mainly about his anger at some of his critics filing perfectly legal FOIA requests for Nunes' wife's emails (Nunes' real complaint here seems to be with how FOIA works for state employees, but to him it's all RICO):
Upon information and belief, Fusion GPS and/or CfA directed Seeley to make a request under the California Public Records Act (“PRA”) for emails received by Plaintiff’s wife, Elizabeth, an elementary school teacher. Seeley’s request targeting Plaintiff’s wife ended up costing the Tulare County Office of Education thousands of dollars in unnecessary cost and expense. Seeley published Elizabeth Nunes’ emails online and included the names and email addresses of numerous school administrators and teachers, resulting in extensive harassment of these innocent, hard-working citizens of Tulare County, including hateful accusations that they teach bigotry and racism. [https://www.scribd.com/user/399236302/Michael-Seeley]. In fact, the school was so concerned about security problems resulting from this situation that it adopted enhanced security measures.
As we stated when the original lawsuit was filed, you can certainly understand why this is annoying and frustrating, but it's a perfectly legal use of FOIA until the laws are changed.
Like the previous lawsuits, this one has little likelihood of going anywhere. Doing opposition research and filing ethics complaints with Congress is not racketeering in any sense of the law. But, of course, once again we have a lawsuit in Virginia over protected speech activity. It's too bad Virginia has a relatively weak anti-SLAPP law.
Filed Under: anti-slapp, devin nunes, glenn simpson, rackeering, rico, slapp, steele dossier, virginiaCompanies: campaign for accountability, gps fusion