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Alliance for Democracy v. FEC (1:02CV00527)


On September 2, 2004, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a complaint filed by Alliance for Democracy, Hedy Epstein and Ben Kjelshus (collectively, "Alliance"). Alliance had asked the court to find that the Commission acted contrary to law by delaying action on an investigation of Ashcroft 2000, the Spirit of America PAC and Garrett Lott, treasurer of the committees.


The Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) authorizes the FEC to investigate possible violations of the Act. Title 2 U.S.C. § 437g(a)(8) allows a party who has filed an administrative complaint with the Commission to seek judicial review should the Commission fail to act on a complaint within 120 days.

The administrative complaint, filed March 8, 2001, alleged that the Spirit of America PAC contributed a fundraising list of 100,000 donors to Ashcroft 2000, the principal campaign committee for John Ashcroft's 2000 Missouri Senate campaign. The administrative complaint alleged that the list was a contribution by the Spirit of America PAC to Ashcroft 2000 and that neither committee reported the contribution to the Commission. See 2 U.S.C. §431(8) and 11 CFR 100.7.

After an investigation, the Commission determined probable cause and entered into conciliation negotiations with the respondents. On December 11, 2003, a final conciliation agreement was reached with all administrative respondents.

On March 19, 2002, Alliance for Democracy filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that the Commission acted contrary to law by failing to act on an administrative complaint filed by the Plaintiffs. The Plaintiffs claimed that, because the alleged contribution was unreported, they were denied, and continued to be denied, access to information that would assist them in evaluating candidates for the 2000 Missouri Senate election, as well as candidates for future elections.

Court order

The court found that because the Commission completed its final action, the case arguing failure or delay of action is moot. Additionally, the court lacks jurisdiction to grant Alliance declaratory relief, as the relief sought must be capable of redressing the alleged harm. In this case, the FEC has acted as requested in Alliance's administrative complaint. Finally, the court also determined that plaintiffs lack standing to sue because they did not show a "discreet injury flowing from" the alleged delay. (Common Cause v. FEC, 108 F.3d at 418.) According to the memorandum of the court, the FEC has completed its obligations under the Act, there is no live controversy between the parties, and thus the action was dismissed.

Source:   FEC RecordOctober 2004; May 2002


District Court (DC)

Court decisions: