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Campaign Legal Center v. FEC (22-1976 / 22-5339)


On January 5, 2024, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed a district court decision. The district court had dismissed the Campaign Legal Center’s (plaintiff) challenge of the Commission’s action on an administrative complaint.


In July 2020, the plaintiff filed an administrative complaint with the Commission that alleged that Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. and Trump Make America Great Again Committee (collectively, “Trump Committees”) violated the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) by failing to properly disclose hundreds of millions of dollars in payments to subvendors and staff made through American Made Media Consultants, LLC, and Parscale Strategy, LLC.

In May 2022, the Commission voted 3-3 on whether to find reason to believe that the Trump Committees violated the Act. The Commission then voted 4-2 to close the file.

The plaintiff challenged that decision in the district court, where the Commission argued that its dismissal of the administrative complaint was unreviewable because the controlling group of three Commissioners who voted against finding reason to believe invoked prosecutorial discretion. The district court agreed, and it granted the Commission’s motion.


The appeals court affirmed the district court’s decision and held that the exercise of prosecutorial discretion is not reviewable. It noted that an “agency’s careful management of its limited resources is a core policy prerogative and its choice not to pursue especially resource-intensive matters ordinarily does not center on the legal merits[.]”.

The appeals court explained that the rationale in the statement by the controlling group of Commissioners rested on prudential and discretionary considerations that were offered in addition to the legal analysis and that these “are the types of prudential judgments that the Supreme Court has stated are ‘peculiarly within’ the agency’s ‘expertise’ and form the core of unreviewable discretion.”

Source: FEC RecordJanuary 2024