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On September 28, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a suit brought against the Commission by Abdul Karim Hassan. The plaintiff had sought a judgment that the Presidential Election Campaign Fund Act is unconstitutional and invalid, and that the requirement in Article II of the U.S. Constitution that the President be a natural born citizen has been effectively repealed or otherwise undermined by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. On March 11, 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed.
The Presidential Election Campaign Fund Act and the Presidential Primary Matching Payment Account Act provide for public funding of eligible candidates running for President. See 26 U.S.C. 9001-9013 and 9031-9042, respectively.
Mr. Hassan, a Guyana native who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, asserts that he is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Presidency in 2012 and 2016. Last year, in Advisory Opinion (AO) 2011-15, the Commission concluded that Mr. Hassan’s constitutional ineligibility to hold the office of President renders him ineligible to receive primary matching funds under the Primary Matching Payment Account Act. Assuming he would similarly be found ineligible for general election funding, Mr. Hassan filed suit on December 8, 2011, with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, challenging the Presidential Election Campaign Fund Act on Constitutional grounds, and asking for a three-judge panel to hear the case.
On September 28, 2012, the district court granted the Commission’s motion to dismiss the suit and denied the plaintiff’s motion for a three-judge court. In its opinion, the court found that Hassan did not have standing to bring his claims. In particular, the court held that in order to allege a sufficient injury, and thus demonstrate standing, the plaintiff would have had to show that he is the nominee of a political party or that his nomination was imminent. Based on Mr. Hassan’s limited campaign activity, the court ruled that he had failed to make the necessary showing and therefore lacked standing. The court also noted that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit had recently concluded that Mr. Hassan lacked standing in a similar case. See Hassan v. United States, 441 F. App’x 10, 11-12 (2nd Cir. 2011), cert. denied, 132 S. Ct. 1016 (2012).
Regarding the plaintiff’s claims involving the natural born citizen requirement, the district court noted that Mr. Hassan had unsuccessfully brought suit on these same claims in five other jurisdictions, and agreed with those five other court decisions that the natural born citizen requirement to become President has not been implicitly repealed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
On March 11, 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling. The court of appeals also affirmed the district court’s conclusion that the natural born citizen requirement in the constitution has not been implicitly repealed.
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