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Wertheimer v. FEC (00-5371)


On October 26, 2001, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld a district court's dismissal of a complaint filed against the Federal Election Commission by Fred Wertheimer, Scott Harsbarger and Archibald Cox (appellants referred to as Wertheimer).


On September 13, 2000, Wertheimer filed a complaint against the FEC in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. In the complaint, Wertheimer alleged that the Commission's failure to implement and construe the Fund Act to identify party expenditures coordinated with publicly funded Presidential candidates as impermissible "contributions" and "expenditures" injured them by:

  • Depriving them of required information about the source and amount of candidates' financing;
  • Preventing them from determining whether publicly financed candidates were abiding by the law; and
  • Interfering with their right to direct that their three-dollar income tax return check-off be used in a lawful fashion.

On October 10, 2000, the district court dismissed Wertheimer's case on the grounds that:

  • The court lacked jurisdiction to consider Wertheimer's claimed informational injury; and
  • Wertheimer's other claimed injuries did not support their standing to sue the Commission.1

Appeals court decision

On appeal, Wertheimer relied on their alleged informational injury. The appeals court, however, affirmed the district court's decision. It held that Wertheimer had not satisfied their burden to establish their standing to bring the case because they had failed to assert a sufficient injury in fact. Wertheimer's appeal relied on FEC v. Akins,2 which, the court of appeals explained, holds that "a voter suffers cognizable injury under FECA when it is deprived of information that FECA requires disclosed." The court concluded that Wertheimer failed to show either that they were deprived of any information or that the legal ruling they sought might provide additional factual information. Wertheimer was not seeking additional facts, but "only the legal determination that certain transactions constitute coordinated expenditures." As a result, the court found that Wertheimer failed to demonstrate standing.

Source:   FEC RecordJanuary 2002; November 2000.