On November 8, 2012, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia rejected a challenge to the Commission’s dismissal of an administrative complaint Herron for Congress filed in connection with its 2010 campaign. The court ruled that it lacks jurisdiction to decide the merits of the case because the claim is moot and because the plaintiff lacks standing.
Herron for Congress was the principal campaign committee of Roy Herron, the Democratic nominee in the 2010 race for the 8th District of Tennessee. On September 29, 2010, the committee filed a complaint with the FEC, alleging that the opposing campaign, Steven Fincher for Congress, had obtained a bank loan for $250,000, but had reported it as a loan from Rep. Fincher to his committee. The complaint further alleged that the loan had been obtained outside the ordinary course of business as it had been insufficiently collateralized.
After investigation, Commission staff found that the loan was improperly reported, but the Commission did not find reason to believe that the loan was insufficiently collateralized, nor did it find reason to believe that the Fincher Committee knowingly and willfully violated the Federal Election Campaign Act. The Commission voted to close the file. Herron for Congress challenged that decision by filing suit in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, alleging that the Commission’s dismissal of its administrative complaint was contrary to law.
The court found that Herron for Congress’s claim was moot, as the election during which it claimed to be wronged was in the past, its results irreversible, and that it was thus “impossible for this or any court to grant meaningful relief with respect to that election.” The court stated that it was up to Herron for Congress to demonstrate that its claim was not moot by showing that the controversy is “capable of repetition, yet evading review.” Because Mr. Herron is only “considering” a future run for office, and because his campaign committee could not therefore demonstrate that it will be subjected to the same allegedly unlawful action again, the court concluded that Herron for Congress’s case was moot.
The court further found that Herron for Congress lacks standing, as its claim is based on nothing more than, “the generalized interest in having the FEC act in a lawful manner.” This did not give rise to standing. Under any approach to Herron for Congress’s case, the court concluded that it merely sought an opinion that “might prove helpful to a campaign [Mr. Herron] has not yet decided to launch,” and that the court thus lacks jurisdiction. The court denied Herron for Congress’s motion for declaratory and injunction relief and granted the FEC’s cross motion for summary judgment.