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Conway for Senate v. FEC


On May 10, 2012, Conway for Senate filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky challenging a civil penalty of $4,950 assessed by the Federal Election Commission. The complaint by Conway for Senate, the principal campaign committee for Jack Conway’s 2010 campaign in Kentucky, asks the Court to modify or set aside the FEC's determination that Conway for Senate violated the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) and set aside the FEC’s assessment of a civil penalty.


The case stems from a determination by the Commission that Conway for Senate violated the Act by not timely filing the 2010 Year End Report of receipts and disbursements. The complaint states that a receptionist for Conway for Senate's treasurer placed the report into a FedEx envelope on January 25, 2011, and sent it overnight to the Senate Office of Public Records. The complaint states the FedEx package was delivered to congressional offices on January 26, 2011. The plaintiff claims that the report in question was timely filed and included all the information required by the FEC. The Commission wrote the treasurer on February 17, 2011, indicating that the 2010 Year End Report had not been filed. On April 1, 2011, the Commission found reason to believe that Conway for Senate violated the Act’s reporting requirements by not filing the 2010 Year End Report and assessed a civil penalty of $4,950. On April 10, 2012, the Commission sent a certified letter to Mr. R. Wayne Stratton in his official capacity as the Conway for Senate treasurer indicating that it had made its determination that a violation had occurred and assessed a civil penalty of $4,950.

The plaintiff claims the FEC, in making its determination, failed to adequately take into account the statements and sworn affidavits submitted that indicate the 2010 Year End Report was included in the January 25, 2011, FedEx package sent to the Senate Office of Public Records. The complaint alleges that Conway for Senate has shown "substantial compliance with the law" and does not believe that the imposition of a monetary penalty is justified.

Court decision

On August 20, 2013, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky dismissed Conway for Senate’s challenge to the late filing penalty. The court stated that there was no dispute between the parties over the correct standard of judicial review to apply in this case. That standard allows a reviewing Court to overturn an agency action only if it is "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law." 5 U.S.C. §706(2)(A). An agency action is arbitrary and capricious if the agency failed to examine relevant evidence or failed to offer a satisfactory explanation for the action.

The Court found that the Commission had “not acted arbitrarily or capriciously,” in its consideration of all relevant evidence and made a plausible factual determination. The Court opinion states: “The evidence submitted by Conway for Senate does not compel a finding that the FEC acted arbitrarily or capriciously.” Because the Court found that the Commission’s decision was not arbitrary or capricious, it granted the agency’s motion and dismissed the case.

Source:  FEC RecordOctober 2013; June 2012