On June 28, 2013, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed Peter J. Vroom’s amended complaint, concluding that he lacked standing to challenge the Commission’s dismissal of his administrative complaint. In that complaint, Mr. Vroom had alleged that Penske PAC and General Electric PAC (GEPAC) had filed false and misleading information about their corporate relationship with the Commission, leading the Commission wrongly to allow the two PACs to disaffiliate in AO 2009-18.
After the Commission dismissed Mr. Vroom’s administrative complaint, he filed a court challenge to the Commission’s decision on January 27, 2012. The Court dismissed that complaint without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction on December 6, 2012. Four weeks later, Mr. Vroom filed an amended complaint against the Commission, alleging informational injury. Mr. Vroom argued that the Commission’s dismissal of his administrative complaint denied him the ability to “fully and accurately determine the source, magnitude and ultimate recipients of political contributions made by [GEPAC].”
The Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) permits any person who believes the law has been violated to file a complaint with the FEC and, subsequently, to seek judicial review if they believe the Commission dismissed the complaint unlawfully. 2 U.S.C. § 437g.
The Act itself, however, does not confer standing under Article III of the Constitution. To have standing, the plaintiff must have suffered an “injury in fact” that is traceable to the defendant’s action or inaction and is “likely” to be “redressed by a favorable decision.” Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 560, 660-61 (1992). Allegations of “informational injury” can provide the requisite injury-in-fact for standing; that is, when the action or inaction of the Commission deprives voters of information that would help them evaluate candidates for office, those voters may have standing to complain. Federal Election Commission v. Akins, 524 U.S. 11, 21 (1998).
The Court dismissed Mr. Vroom’s complaint because it did not identify any information not currently available that would be made available were GEPAC and Penske PAC no longer disaffiliated. In fact, Mr. Vroom relied upon the FEC’s public data for GEPAC and Penske PAC to argue that the Commission erred in its decision. Absent an injury in fact, the Court determined Mr. Vroom lacked standing to bring the suit.
Date issued: 6/28/2013; 7 pp.
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia: Case 1:12-cv-00143-RMC