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Whitmore v. FEC



On December 9, 1994, the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska dismissed Whitmore and Quinlan v. FEC, in which the plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of permitting federal candidates for the Alaska at-large seat in the U.S. House of Representatives to accept contributions from individuals and PACs residing outside of Alaska.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, on October 26, 1995, affirmed the district court's dismissal.

District court decision

Joni Whitmore was the Green Party's 1994 candidate for U.S. House Representative from Alaska. She refused out-of-state contributions throughout her campaign. James Quinlan is a resident of Alaska. Plaintiffs argued that the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) permitted out-of-state contributions, which violated their constitutional rights, hurt Ms. Whitmore's candidacy and diluted Mr. Quinlan's vote.

The court found that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring this case because they did not demonstrate injury-in-fact or causation, or that the relief they sought would redress the alleged injury.

An injury-in-fact must affect a plaintiff in a personal and individual way. The court deemed Ms. Whitmore's alleged injury to be hypothetical and speculative. The court found no evidence to suggest that Ms. Whitmore would have fared better in the election if out-of-state contributions had been prohibited. As to the allegation that the Act injures Mr. Quinlan by depriving him of his right to equal protection and to be governed by a republican form of government, the court said there was no injury-in-fact because all candidates were free to solicit and receive contributions.

To show causation, a plaintiff's injury must be traceable to the challenged action of the defendant. The court stated that Ms. Whitmore failed to present any facts indicating that the government had caused non-Alaskans to contribute to her opponents, prevented her from soliciting such contributions or prevented non-Alaskans from contributing to her. The Act, the court found, does not treat the plaintiffs any differently than other American citizens.

Lastly, the court stated that there was no evidence to show that prohibiting her opponents from accepting out-of-state contributions would redress Ms. Whitmore's injury; the effect of out-of-state contributions on her campaign was wholly speculative.

The court said " . . . to accomplish the result plaintiffs seek, the court would have to add to [the Act] a prohibition [on] nonresident contributions, which it is not permitted to do. . . . [R]egulation of federal elections is more appropriately committed to the legislature, not to the judiciary."

Appeals court decision

The court of appeals affirmed the district court's dismissal of this case on grounds that plaintiffs lacked standing under Article III of the constitution to file this suit and that, even if they had standing, their claims were frivolous.

Source:   FEC RecordMarch 1996; February 1995; Whitmore v. FEC, No. A94-289 CIV (JWS) (D.C. Alaska Sept. 16, 1994) (denying preliminary injunction); (D.C. Alaska Dec. 8, 1994) (opinion); No. 94-36236 (9th Cir. Oct. 26, 1995 ).