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FEC Record: Litigation

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Conway for Senate v. FEC

On August 20, 2013, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky dismissed Conway for Senate’s challenge to the Commission’s assessment of a $4,950 civil monetary penalty for filing the 2010 Year-End Report late.

The Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) requires federal candidate committees to file various financial statements, including quarterly reports. Quarterly reports are due by the 15th day of the month following the calendar quarter, except for the Year-End Report, which is due by January 31 of the following year. Senatorial candidates file their reports with the Secretary of the Senate, which must then forward a copy of the report to the Commission within two business days.

Conway for Senate, the principal campaign committee for Jack Conway’s 2010 campaign in Kentucky, claims that a receptionist for the committee treasurer placed its 2010 Year-End Report, along with other items, into a FedEx envelope on January 25, 2011, and sent it overnight to the Senate Office of Public Records. The committee says the package was delivered to the Senate on January 26, 2011, and contained all the information required by the FEC. The Commission did not receive the report, and contacted the committee’s treasurer on February 17, 2011. On April 1, 2011, the Commission found reason to believe that Conway for Senate violated the Act’s reporting requirements by not filing the 2010 Year-End Report and assessed a civil penalty of $4,950.

On May 10, 2012, Conway for Senate filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky challenging that civil penalty. The complaint asked the Court to set aside or modify the civil penalty and the Commission’s determination that Conway for Senate violated the Act.

The plaintiff claimed the Commission, in making its determination, failed to adequately take into account the statements and sworn affidavits submitted that indicate the 2010 Year-End Report was included in the January 25, 2011, FedEx package sent to the Senate Office of Public Records.

The Commission contacted the Superintendent of the Office of Public Records of the Senate and asked for a review of the reports received from Conway for Senate. The Office of Public Records acknowledged receiving five separate reports in the January 25, 2011, FedEx envelope, but stated that the 2010 Year-End Report was not included.

Court Opinion
Judge Charles R. Simpson III’s opinion states that there was no dispute between the parties over the correct standard of judicial review to apply in this case. That standard allows a reviewing Court to overturn an agency action only if it is “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law.” 5 U.S.C. §706(2)(A). An agency action is arbitrary and capricious if the agency failed to examine relevant evidence or failed to offer a satisfactory explanation for the action.

The Court found that the Commission had “not acted arbitrarily or capriciously,” in its consideration of all relevant evidence and made a plausible factual determination. The Court opinion states: “The evidence submitted by Conway for Senate does not compel a finding that the FEC acted arbitrarily or capriciously.” Because the Court found that the Commission’s decision was not arbitrary or capricious, it granted the agency’s motion and dismissed the case.

Date Issued: 8/20/2013; 11 pages
U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky at Louisville: Case 3:12-cv-00244-CRS-JDM

(Posted 9/4/2013; By: Isaac Baker)









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