Summary of the
FEC Complaint Against Zach Exley
(gwbush.com parody web site proceeding)

See also, Summary of FEC Proceedings Regarding Campaign Activity and the Internet.

Introduction. This proceeding involves the attempt by the presidential campaign of Gov. George Bush to have the Federal Election Commission penalize an individual for operating a web site by filing a complaint with the FEC the Federal Election Campaign Act. The FEC released a letter and narrative in April 2000 in which it determined, without elaboration, that it would take no action against the individual.

This page was last updated on April 20, 2000.

Complainant. Benjamin Ginsburg, an attorney with the mega law firm of Patton Boggs, filed the complaint. Although, he is an experienced elections lawyer, who is also associated with the George W. Bush presidential campaign. Contact information: 2550 M Street, NW, Washington DC 20037-4350, 202-457-6000.

Respondent. The respondent is Zach Exley, owner of the www.gwbush.com web site. Contact information: 25 Magnus Avenue, Apt 1, Somerville, MA 02143; zachexley@yahoo.com.

Facts. Zach Exley created a simple web site with the domain name www.gwbush.com that copied some of the graphics and appearance of the official campaign web site of Gov. George W. Bush (R-TX). The focus of the web site is unsubstantiated accusations that Gov. Bush used cocaine. Also, in connection with its imitation of Gov. Bush's site, there is an element of parodic humor.

Legal Issues. The complaint raised three claims of violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), 2 U.S.C. 431, et seq.

Neither the complainant, Gov. Bush, nor the campaign has instituted any judicial proceeding. Other possible remedies might include copyright infringement (for publishing copyrighted graphics) and defamation (for publishing false statements).

Exley responded to the complaint in a letter. However, his letter is largely an immature discourse devoid of legal argument. It appears to have been drafted without any assistance of legal counsel, or an understanding of the applicable law. He did not cite any section of the FECA, any regulation promulgated thereunder, or any advisory opinion of the FEC. Nor did he raise the First Amendment of the Constitution. However, he did "ask the FEC not to find me guilty ..."

FEC Determination. The FEC wrote in a letter to Exley dated February 29, 1999, but not delivered until April, that it "determined to exercise its prosecutorial discretion and to take no action against" Exley. In an attached narrative the FEC wrote that "There is no evidence of serious intent to violate the FECA, and this matter is less significant relative to other matter pending before the Commission."

Thus, the FEC did not address the legal arguments raised in the original complaint.

Chronology with Links to Related Materials.