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National Right to Work Committee v. Thomson; Chamberlain v. Thomson


On July 21, 1977, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia consolidated the two above-mentioned cases. The order stated that the cases "involve common questions of law and that consolidation will reduce cost and delay." Both suits alleged that the FEC had failed to act on complaints filed with the Commission against the National Education Association.

After oral hearings in the consolidated cases, on August 31, 1977, the court denied the Commission's motion to dismiss the complaints and granted the plaintiffs summary judgment. The court also ordered the Commission to proceed to a formal resolution of the complaints within 30 days.

After considering the context of this case, the court agreed with the plaintiffs' argument that the 90-day time period established by law must serve as a time limit for the formal resolution of complaints. The Federal Election Campaign Act (2 U.S.C. §437g(a)(9)(A))[1] allows an "aggrieved party" to file suit against the FEC in district court if the Commission "fails to act" on a complaint within 90 days of its filing. The court stated that otherwise "the complaint process would be subverted through indefinite delays," and plaintiffs will be left "without any way of knowing whether any action at all has been taken on their complaints."

The court also stated that the delay by the Commission was unnecessary since the Commission's regulations specifically prohibit the acts cited in the complaints.

The Commission had thirty days in which to bring about a formal resolution of the complaints: dismissal, entry into a conciliation agreement or institution of a formal enforcement action.


[1] The 1979 Amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act extended the time limit from 90 days to 120 days. See 2 U.S.C. §437g(a)(8)(A).

Source:   FEC RecordOctober 1977; June 1977. National Right to Work Committee v. Vernon W. Thomson; Paul E. Chamberlain v. Vernon W. Thomson, 2 Fed. Elec. Camp. Fin. Guide (CCH) ¶9042 (D.D.C. 1977).