Miles for Senate v. FEC
On January 17, 2001, the Miles for Senate Committee, Steven H. Miles and Barbara Steinberg (the plaintiffs) filed suit against the Commission, appealing a civil money penalty the Commission assessed under the administrative fine regulations against Miles for Senate (the Committee) and its treasurer, Barbara Steinberg, LTD. The U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota granted judgment in favor of the Commission on January 9, 2002.
The plaintiffs had argued, among other things, that Commission regulations that distinguish between certified or registered mail and regular mail for the purpose of determining when a report is filed are arbitrary and capricious and in excess of the Commission's rulemaking authority. 11 CFR 104.5(e). The court found that Mr. Miles and Ms. Steinberg lacked standing to request judicial review, and that the plaintiffs' arguments were untimely because they did not raise them during the Commission's administrative process. Moreover, the court found that, even if the plaintiffs had raised their arguments in a timely manner, the arguments were unpersuasive and failed as a matter of law.
The Commission found reason to believe (RTB) that the Committee and its treasurer failed to file a July 15, 2000, Quarterly Report by the deadline, and proposed a $2,700 civil penalty against the Committee and its treasurer under the Administrative Fine regulations. 2 U.S.C. §437g(a)(4)(C) and subpart B of 11 CFR 111. Ms. Steinberg had sent the Committee's report via first class mail on the due date, and the Commission did not receive it until six days later. Under Commission regulations, if a report is sent registered or certified mail, it is considered filed on the date of the U.S. postmark. However, if a report is sent by first class mail, it is considered filed on the date it is received by the FEC or the Secretary of the Senate. 11 CFR 104.5(e). As a result, the Committee's filing was considered six days late.
Commission regulations provide for an administrative process through which respondents can challenge the RTB finding and the proposed civil money penalty. The plaintiffs responded to the Commission's RTB determination to assess the civil money penalty, but failed to respond to the Commission's reviewing officer's recommendations within the 10-day response period. 11 CFR 111.36(f). On December 14, 2000, the Commission made a final determination that the plaintiffs violated the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) by filing the report late and assessed the civil money penalty. The plaintiffs petitioned the court for review of this determination.
The court found that Mr. Miles and Ms. Steinberg lacked standing to request judicial review of the matter because they were not respondents in the Commission's determination. The Commission assessed the penalty against the Committee and the incorporated entity Barbara Steinberg, LTD, which was on record as the Committee's treasurer. Under the Act, only a "person against whom an adverse determination is made" may ask for judicial review of an FEC determination. 2 U.S.C. §437g(a)(4)(C)(iii).
Timeliness of arguments
Under Commission regulations, if respondents fail to raise an argument with the Commission during the administrative process, they waive their right to make that argument in a petition to the court. 11 CFR 111.38. The court found that the plaintiffs had waived the arguments made in their petition by not first making the arguments to the Commission.
In their motion to the court, the plaintiffs argued that the Commission regulation that distinguishes between first class mail and registered or certified mail exceeds the Commission's rulemaking authority and draws an arbitrary distinction. 11 CFR 104.5(e). The court, however, did not find that the regulation exceeded the Commission's authority to make regulations to implement the Act: "Because the regulation merely incorporates the same distinction as that made by the statute, it is impossible to find that the regulation is inconsistent with the statute." 2 U.S.C. §434(a)(5). The court also concluded that it could not respond to the plaintiffs' arguments concerning whether distinguishing among postmarks was a "bad policy." Such arguments, the court explained, should be addressed to legislators and administrators rather than to the courts.
The court dismissed Mr. Miles's and Ms. Steinberg's claims and granted summary judgment to the FEC on the Committee's claims.
Source: FEC Record — March 2002