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Clark v. Valeo


In a suit filed in 1976, Ramsey Clark, former candidate in the New York State Senate primary election, asked the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia for declaratory and injunctive relief against those provisions in the Act governing legislative review of the rules, regulations and advisory opinions of the FEC. Under these provisions, regulations proposed by the Commission may not be prescribed until they have been before Congress for 30 legislative days, during which time either house may disapprove them.

Clark argued that the "one-house veto" violated the constitutional principle of "separation of powers." Further, he asserted, regulations would be tainted by congressional influence on the Commission's decision-making process. He also claimed the procedure delayed promulgation of Commission regulations, thereby denying him, as voter and as candidate, protection of the Act.

Intervening as a plaintiff on behalf of the Executive Branch, the Attorney General also requested an injunction against the "one-house veto," arguing that it intrudes "upon those areas reserved by the Constitution of the United States to the Executive Branch.... "

The Federal Election Commission asked the court to dismiss the complaint, arguing inter alia, the case was not ripe for court action since Congress had not disapproved any regulation and the plaintiff had claimed no hardship resulting from compliance with the substance of a proposed regulation.

The district court certified a number of constitutional questions to the court of appeals. Concluding that the matter was not "ripe" for adjudication, the court of appeals, in a 6-2 decision on January 21, 1977, returned the certified questions to the district court unanswered, with instructions to dismiss. The court said that Clark 's case, based on his status as a candidate, became moot when he failed to win the primary in New York. As a voter, Clark had neither protested a specific veto action by Congress nor identified any proposed regulation tainted by the threat of veto or review. With respect to the constitutional issue raised by the one-house veto, the court held the case was "unripe" because congressional disapproval of a proposed regulation had not yet occurred. "Until Congress exercises the one-house veto," the Court said, "it may be difficult to present a case with sufficient concreteness as to standing and ripeness to justify resolution of the pervasive constitutional issue which the one-house veto provision involves."

On June 6, 1977, the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the lower court's decision.[1]


[1] The Court eventually found the one-house veto to be unconstitutional in Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919 (1983).

Source:   FEC Annual Report 1977. Clark v. Valeo, 559 F.2d 642 (D.C. Cir.) (per curiam), aff'd mem. sub nom. Clark v. Kimmit, 431 U.S. 950 (1977).