FEC v. AKINS

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
96-1590
Petitioner 
FEC
Respondent 
Akins
Opinion 
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the respondents)
(Department of Justice, argued the cause for the petitioner)
Tags
Term:
Facts of the Case 

The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA) imposes recordkeeping and disclosure requirements upon political committees which receive more than $1,000 in "contributions" or which make more than $1,000 in "expenditures" in a year "for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office." Certain assistance does not count toward the expenditure cap if it takes the form of a "communication" by a "membership organization or corporation" "to its members" as long as the organization is not "organized primarily for the purpose of influencing [any individual's] nomination... or election." A complaint filed by a group of voters asked the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to order the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to make public the information that FECA demands of political committees. Ultimately, the FEC found that AIPAC was not a political committee because its major purpose was not the nomination or election of candidates. The en banc Court of Appeals concluded that the FEC's major purpose test improperly interpreted FECA's definition of a political committee.

Question 

Do voters have the proper legal standing to challenge the Federal Election Commission's decisions regarding political committees?

Conclusion 
Decision: 6 votes for FEC, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 2 U.S.C. 431

Yes. In a 6-3 opinion delivered by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, the Court held that voters seeking information, to which they believe FECA entitles them, have standing to challenge the FEC's decision not to bring an enforcement action. Because FECA seeks to address the voters' injury, the failure to obtain relevant information, Justice Breyer concluded that the voters had prudential standing. Furthermore, because the voters' inability to obtain information constitutes an "injury in fact," continued Justice Breyer, the voters had standing under Article III. The Court did not address the FEC's major purpose test, allowing the FEC to address the issue under newly proposed rules. Justice Antonin Scalia filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Clarence Thomas joined.

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FEC v. AKINS. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 10 November 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1997/1997_96_1590>.
FEC v. AKINS, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1997/1997_96_1590 (last visited November 10, 2014).
"FEC v. AKINS," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed November 10, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1997/1997_96_1590.