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On July 1, 2013, former U.S. Senate candidate Dan La Botz filed suit against the FEC in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, challenging the Commission’s dismissal of his administrative complaint.
The challenge arises from a previous suit filed in the same court in July 2011. (La Botz v. FEC, 11-1247RC.) In that case, Mr. La Botz alleged that the Commission wrongfully dismissed the administrative complaint that he filed against the Ohio News Organization and its member newspapers (“ONO”). The administrative complaint alleged that the ONO failed to use pre-established and objective standards when inviting participants to a series of televised debates from which Mr. La Botz was excluded, and as a result, the costs of the debates constituted prohibited, in-kind corporate contributions to the participating campaigns. The Commission dismissed the administrative complaint in 2011, finding no reason to believe that ONO violated the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) or Commission regulations because ONO’s criteria for participation in the debate were pre-established and objective. On September 5, 2012, the district court concluded that the Commission’s dismissal of the administrative complaint was not supported by substantial evidence and was contrary to law, and remanded the matter to the agency.
On May 24, 2013, the Commission exercised its prosecutorial discretion and again dismissed the administrative complaint. It concluded that there was insufficient evidence to provide reason to believe that the ONO failed to use pre-established objective criteria in selecting debate participants and that further pursuit of the matter would not be an efficient use of the agency’s limited resources.
Mr. La Botz’s current complaint alleges that the Commission erred as a matter of law in dismissing the remanded action. According to the court complaint, the Commission’s findings contradict the district court’s holdings, the Act and the Commission’s regulations. Mr. La Botz seeks a declaration from the court that the Commission's dismissal of his administrative complaint was arbitrary and capricious, contrary to law, and an abuse of discretion. The complaint also asks that the case be remanded back to the Commission with an order to conform to the court’s declaration within 30 days.