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Campaign Legal Center, et al. v. FEC (19-2336 / 21-5081)

Summary

On February 12, 2021, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (the court) dismissed the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) claim brought against the Commission by the Campaign Legal Center and Catherine Hinckley Kelley (together, plaintiffs). As the court had previously determined plaintiffs lacked standing to bring this suit under the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), this dismissal terminated the case.

Background

Plaintiffs filed suit against the Commission on August 2, 2019, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief for the dismissal of their administrative complaint against Correct the Record (CTR) and Hillary for America. The administrative complaint had alleged that CTR made, and Hillary for America accepted, unreported excessive and prohibited contributions in the form of coordinated expenditures. In their suit, plaintiffs had alleged informational injury as well as a violation of the APA. Because an informational injury turns on the nature of the information that would be revealed, and no further information would be uncovered by additional investigation, the court dismissed Count I of the suit; however, the court held in abeyance the motions for summary judgment based on the APA claim, requesting further briefing from the plaintiffs and the intervenor-defendants, CTR and Hillary for America.

Analysis

The court stated that because the FECA (or the Act) “has no provisions that govern judicial review of regulations, actions brought to challenge its implementing regulations should be brought under the APA.” However, as the court noted, the plaintiffs' APA claim is a challenge to the legal reasoning given by the Commission in its adjudication, rather than an attack on the "facial validity" of the regulations. The court concluded, “Because ‘Congress has implicitly precluded [such claims] by channeling’ attacks on specific FEC enforcement decisions into FECA’s specific judicial-review scheme, the court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over it. Jarkesy v. SEC, 803 F.3d 9, 15 (D.C. Cir. 2015).” As a result, the court dismissed Count II (APA Claim) for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, terminating the case.

Source: FEC RecordFebruary 2021; December 2020; August 2019


Documents

Appeals Court (DC Circuit) (21-5081)

Court decisions:

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District Court (DC) (19-2336)

Court decisions:

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