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Jim Sykes v. FEC, ET AL.


On September 9, 2004, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted the FEC's motion to dismiss and also granted all other defendants' requests for dismissal "to the extent that other defendants' motions to dismiss join in Defendant's FEC's motion.." The plaintiff filed a Notice of Appeal on October 13, 2004. On April 13, 2005, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in an unpublished decision, granted the Commission’s motion for summary affirmation of the district court's decision.


On February 24, 2004, Jim Sykes, the Green Party's nominee in Alaska's November 2 Senate election, filed a complaint asking the court to find unconstitutional unspecified provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) that allow non-Alaska residents to make contributions to a Senate candidate in Alaska's 2004 general election, either personally or through political committees. The plaintiff alleged that these non-resident contributions unconstitutionally burdened his First and Fifth Amendment rights to associate politically, both as a candidate and a voter, with other Alaska voters.

The plaintiff asked the court, among other things, to:

  • Certify this action as a class action against all individuals and political committees who are not Alaska residents and who have made or may make contributions to a Senate candidate in Alaska;
  • Convene a three-judge panel, or certify the questions raised in this complaint to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia pursuant to 2 U.S.C. 437h;
  • Enter a declaratory judgment that the Act severely burdens the plaintiff's exercise of his right to political association to the extent that it authorizes non-Alaska residents to contribute to Alaska's Senate candidates; and
  • Preliminarily and permanently enjoin the individuals and political committees named in this action, and the members of the classes they represent, from contributing to Senate candidates in Alaska and direct these defendants to seek refunds of contributions they have already made.

District court decision

In order to have standing to bring suit in federal court, a plaintiff must meet a three-part test. The plaintiff must:

  • Demonstrate an "injury in fact" that is concrete, distinct and palpable;
  • Establish a causal connection between the injury and the conduct described in the suit, such that the injury is "fairly traceable" to the action of the defendants and not the result of some third party that is not before the court; and
  • Show the "substantial likelihood" that the requested relief will remedy the alleged injury in fact.

The court found that the plaintiff was unable to establish any of these three requirements for standing.

Having found that the plaintiff did not have standing in this case, the court did not reach the issue of whether the case was also frivolous. The court granted the FEC's motion to dismiss the case in its entirety and found that there was no need to convene a three-judge panel or to certify the plaintiff's questions to the appeals court.

Source:   FEC RecordJune 2005; November 2004; and April 2004