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Tierney v. FEC


On March 12, 2008, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted the FEC’s motion to dismiss Thomas P. Tierney’s suit against the Commission for lack of standing. The court found that the FEC’s decision to dismiss Mr. Tierney’s administrative complaint was not contrary to law.


Mr. Tierney was a candidate for Congress in Massachusetts in the 2004 general election. Shortly before the election, Mr. Tierney filed an administrative complaint with the FEC asserting that the Massachusetts Republican State Congressional Committee (the Committee) unlawfully failed to spend its federal funds to support Republican candidates for federal office in Massachusetts. He alleged that the Committee spent most of more than $3 million in federal contributions received during the 2004 election cycle on state and local campaigns, rather than for federal campaign activity.

The FEC considered Mr. Tierney’s complaint and concluded that the Committee had not violated the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act). The Commission concluded that the Act neither requires the Committee to spend its federal funds on Congressional candidates nor bars it from spending federal funds on state and local elections. Mr. Tierney then sought review of that decision in the district court.

Court decision

The court concluded that Mr. Tierney has not established standing to pursue this action because he conceded that the Committee had no obligation to provide financial support to his particular candidacy. Mr. Tierney thus did not have a “concrete and particularized” injury in fact for standing purposes. Additionally, his alleged injury was not caused by the FEC’s conduct in dismissing his complaint, but the independent decision of the Committee not to spend its federal funds to support his candidacy.

The court also concluded that the FEC’s dismissal of Mr. Tierney’s administrative complaint was not “contrary to law” because the FEC’s decision was based on the plain language of the Act. There is no provision in the Act that requires state political party committees to disburse federal funds only for the specific purpose of supporting federal candidates. The court concluded that it is not for the courts to create restrictions on the use of federal funds for nonfederal purposes. Any such restrictions should instead be considered by the political branches, particularly Congress.

Source:   FEC RecordMay 2008


District Court (DC)

Court decisions: