Akins, et al. v. FEC (1:03CV02431)
On November 25, 2003, James E. Akins and several other individuals filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court for the District Columbia requesting that the court find that the Commission acted contrary to law when it dismissed the plaintiff's administrative complaint dated May 20, 2002 (Matter Under Review (MUR) 5272). The administrative complaint alleged that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) failed to disclose its candidate-coordinated express advocacy communications as required by the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act). 2 U.S.C. § 431(9)(B)(iii). In their complaint filed with the District Court, the plaintiffs allege that the FEC's dismissal of the complaint against AIPAC has harmed the electoral process by not enforcing the provisions of federal law that require public disclosure of such communications. The plaintiffs allege that they also have been harmed by being denied their legal right to access such information and use it to inform policymakers and the general public about the activities and influence of AIPAC.
The Act requires incorporated membership organizations to report disbursements for express advocacy communications to their members when the cost of such communications aggregates over $2,000 for all candidates running in the same election. 2 U.S.C. § 431(9)(B)(iii).
In its investigation MUR 2084, which resulted from a previous complaint filed by the plaintiffs against AIPAC, the Commission found that:
- AIPAC was a membership organization under federal law; and
- AIPAC's meetings with candidates and its sharing of campaign information with its members demonstrated a serious interest in influencing federal elections.
However, in MUR 2804, the Commission made no determination regarding whether the cost of AIPAC's communications exceeded $2,000 in connection with any election.
On May 20, 2002, the plaintiffs filed an additional complaint, MUR 5272, alleging that the facts found in MUR 2804 indicated that AIPAC failed to disclose the cost of having members travel to and attend meetings with candidates to discuss their campaigns and issues once those costs exceeded $2,000. In MUR 5272, the plaintiffs asked that the Commission:
- Find through investigation that AIPAC's costs for advocacy communications to its members exceeded $2,000 during an election; and,
- Order AIPAC to disclose the cost of such communications with the Commission in accord with Federal law.
The Commission dismissed MUR 5272 as a matter of prosecutorial discretion. The Commission noted that the plaintiffs' complaint did not cite any specific instances of communications containing express advocacy made by AIPAC and that they could not substantiate the claim that AIPAC had engaged in membership communications subject to the reporting requirements of the Act.
The plaintiffs contend that the Commission's dismissal of MUR 5272 was arbitrary, capricious and contrary to law. Plaintiffs claim that the evidence gathered in the investigation of MUR 2804 is sufficient to prove that AIPAC made communications to its members in excess of $2,000 for an election.
The plaintiffs ask the Court to:
- Assume jurisdiction of this case;
- Declare the Commission's dismissal of the plaintiff's administrative complaint to be arbitrary, capricious and contrary to law;
- Remand the matter to the Commission and order the agency to decide on the basis of the evidence presented in MUR 2804 whether AIPAC has made unreported membership communications;
- Award plaintiffs costs and attorneys' fees; and
- Afford plaintiffs such additional relief as the court deems just.
Source: FEC Record— April 2004
District Court (DC) (03-2431)
- Defendant Federal Election Commission's Reply in Support of its Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment (10/19/2009)
- Plaintiff's Reply Supporting Summary Judgment and Opposition to Defendant's Cross-Motion (09/28/2009)
- FEC's Cross Motion for Summary Judgment (08/28/2009)
- Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (07/16/2009)