FEC v. Populist Party (90-0229 and 90-7169)
On May 31, 1991, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in a per curiam decision, granted the FEC's motion for summary reversal of a district court order that had imposed a date by which the Commission had to conclude its investigation of the Populist Party. (Civil Action No. 90-7169.) The appeals court said the district court had exceeded its jurisdiction by setting the deadline.
The FEC had filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking enforcement of subpoenas and orders the agency had issued to the Populist Party and other respondents in an internal enforcement case (Matter Under Review or MUR). The district court, on October 18, 1990, ordered the respondents to furnish the information to the Commission by November 15, 1990. The court, however, also ordered the agency to conclude its investigation by November 29, 1990. The FEC appealed this portion of the order, and the district court granted a stay of the deadline pending resolution of the appeal.
In its motion for summary reversal of the district court order, the FEC argued that the court had exceeded its limited jurisdiction under 2 U.S.C. §437d(b), the subpoena enforcement provision of the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act). The FEC said: "Section 437d(b) bestows no license on the court to decide where the Commission's limited resources will be directed or to determine how the underlying investigation should be run."
The FEC also argued that the Act does not provide for judicial review of the length of a Commission investigation that arises from an agency-generated enforcement case, such as the case involving the Populist Party. But even in cases that originate from outside parties, only the complainants-not the respondents-have the right to seek judicial review of an investigation's pace. 2 U.S.C. §437g(a)(8).
The appeals court found the merits of the Commission's position "so clear as to justify summary action."
Source: FEC Record — August 1991