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Gottlieb v. FEC


On May 8, 1997, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted the FEC's motion to dismiss this case in which Alan Gottlieb and others had asked the court to order the FEC to take action on an administrative complaint that the Commission had voted to dismiss.

On May 22, 1998, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the lower court ruling that dismissed this case for lack of standing. The appeals court rejected the arguments the appellants had presented in an effort to bring suit against the FEC after the agency had dismissed their administrative complaint.


Alan Gottlieb, together with several other voters and organizations, had filed an administrative complaint with the FEC in March 1995 alleging that President Clinton's 1992 campaign received $1.4 million in excess entitlement allowed under the Presidential Primary Matching Payment Account Act. According to the complaint, the excess entitlement occurred because, following President Clinton's nomination, his campaign transferred $1.4 million in private primary contributions to his General Election Legal and Accounting Compliance Fund (GELAC Fund) instead of using the funds to pay his primary debts. According to appellants, the transfer violated 11 CFR 9003.3(a)(1), as it was written at the time of the alleged violation, because the regulation permitted transfers of funds only in excess of amounts needed to pay primary debts.

The Commission dismissed the administrative complaint after deadlocking in a 3-3 vote. Mr. Gottlieb then filed suit, asking the district court to find that the FEC's actions had been contrary to law.

District court ruling

The district court found that the appellants did not have standing (under Article III of the U.S. Constitution) to pursue their claims in court because they had not been harmed by the Commission's decision.

Appeals court ruling

In affirming the lower court, the appellate court called Mr. Gottlieb's claims of injury "speculative" and "amorphous."

Source:   FEC Record July 1998; and July 1997. Gottlieb v. FEC, 143 F.3d 618 (D.C. Cir. May 22, 1998).