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Campaign Legal Center v. FEC (18-0053 / 20-5159)

Summary

On May 26, 2020, the U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted the Commission’s motion to dismiss the Campaign Legal Center’s suit challenging the agency’s alleged failure to act on its administrative complaint.

Background

According to its court complaint, Campaign Legal Center (the plaintiff) and an individual, Catherine Hinckley Kelley, filed an administrative complaint on November 1, 2016, alleging that GEO Corrections Holdings, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of a federal contractor, violated the Federal Election Campaign Act ("FECA")’s prohibition on contributions by federal government contractors by contributing a total of $225,000 to Rebuilding America Now, a nonconnected independent expenditure-only committee (Super PAC) in 2016. On January 10, 2018, the plaintiff filed suit against the Commission alleging that the Commission had failed to act on the administrative complaint and that the failure to act on the complaint was contrary to law.

Dismissal

The plaintiff brought suit under both FECA and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The Commission moved to dismiss both counts arguing that the plaintiff lacked standing to sue under FECA and failed to state a claim under the APA.

The plaintiff argued that FECA creates a right to action on its administrative complaint within 120 days and that the Commission’s failure to act on the complaint within 120 days confers standing to sue. The Commission argued that the plaintiff did not allege any concrete or particularized injury from that alleged failure to act and thus lacked standing to sue under Article III of the Constitution. The Court granted the Commission’s motion to dismiss this count noting that binding precedent within the D. C. Circuit states that FECA’s “120-day rule” confers a right to sue, but does not confer standing to sue.

The plaintiff also argued that the Commission’s alleged failure to act on the administrative complaint constitutes an “unreasonable delay” under the APA. The Court found that FECA provides the exclusive mechanism for judicial review of administrative complaints made under FECA. Therefore, the Court found that the plaintiff had no claim under the APA and granted the Commission’s motion to dismiss this count.

Source: FEC Record — May 2020; January 2018