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Campaign Legal Center v. FEC (21-0406)

Summary

On May 3, 2022, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (the court) found that the Commission failed to comply with the court’s order to act on an administrative complaint filed by Campaign Legal Center (the plaintiff). The court declared that the plaintiff may file suit to enforce the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) against the alleged violator.

Background

On February 16, 2021, the plaintiff filed suit alleging that the Commission failed to act on its administrative complaint against Heritage Action for America. On March 25, 2022, the court granted the plaintiff a default judgment. The court held that the Commission’s failure to act was contrary to law and ordered the Commission to take action on the complaint within 30 days. A month later, plaintiff moved for an order declaring that the FEC had failed to conform to the court’s order.

Analysis

Heritage Action for America filed an amicus brief that argued the Court should hold the case in abeyance because documents responsive to its pending FEC FOIA request could show that the Commission did not act contrary to law. The Court rejected that argument, noting it had already decided the FEC acted contrary to law when it granted default judgement.

The court determined that the Commission did not comply with its March 25, 2022, order within the time specified, and granted the plaintiff’s motion. Under the Act, complainants may file suit to enforce the Act when the court declares that the Commission’s dismissal or failure to act on an administrative complaint is contrary to law and the Commission fails to correct the illegality. As a result, the court declared that the plaintiff may bring a civil action to enforce the Act against Heritage Action for America.

Source: FEC RecordMay 2022; March 2022; February 2021