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Vroom v. Federal Election Commission

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 28, 2013

PETER J. VROOM, Plaintiff,
v.
FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION, Defendant

PETER J. VROOM, Plaintiff, Pro se, Alexandria, VA.

For FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION, Defendant: Gregory John Mueller, Harry Jacobs Summers, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Anthony Herman, Charles Kitcher, Steve Nicholas Hajjar, FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION, Washington, DC; Lisa J. Stevenson, FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION, Office of the General Council, Washington, DC.

OPINION

ROSEMARY M. COLLYER, United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Peter J. Vroom seeks review of the dismissal of his administrative complaint by the Federal Election Commission. [1] Mr.

Page 176

Vroom complained that the FEC wrongly approved the disaffiliation of General Electric Company's Political Action Committee (" GEPAC" ) and Penske Truck Leasing Corporation, L.P.'s Political Action Committee (" Penske PAC" ). The PACs had been affiliated due to GE's financial control of Penske. With their request to disaffiliate the PACs, GE and Penske informed the FEC that their relationship had changed, so that GE no longer held a controlling financial interest in Penske. Mr. Vroom urged the FEC to investigate GE and Penske, asserting that they had filed false and misleading information about their corporate relationship, which had caused the FEC to disaffiliate their two PACs wrongly. Without four votes among the FEC Commissioners to initiate an investigation, Mr. Vroom's administrative complaint was dismissed. The FEC now moves to dismiss his amended complaint before this Court, arguing that Mr. Vroom does not have standing to bring this suit because he has suffered no tangible harm. Appearing pro se, Mr. Vroom insists he has suffered an informational injury sufficient for standing.

I. FACTS

This Court previously dismissed without prejudice Mr. Vroom's original complaint for lack of jurisdiction. Order [Dkt. 12] (Dec. 6, 2012) at 4. That complaint sought only a legal determination that GE and Penske violated the Federal Election Campaign Act (" FECA" ), 2 U.S.C. § 431 et seq., not a remedy to a cognizable injury. See Compl. [Dkt. 1] ¶ 16 (" The FEC's failure to adequately investigate and pursue Vroom's complaint and to cooperate fully . . . has allowed GE/Penske to continue to operate in violation of the law and denied Mr. Vroom the benefits of the FEC's findings on the merits of his complaint." ). The Court dismissed that complaint because " [t]o hold that a plaintiff can establish injury in fact merely by alleging that he has been deprived of the knowledge as to whether a violation of the law has occurred would be tantamount to recognizing a justiciable interest in the enforcement of the law. This we cannot do." Order at 3-4 (quoting Common Cause v. FEC, 108 F.3d 413, 418, 323 U.S.App. D.C. 359 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (per curiam)). In other words, even though FECA provides that " [a]ny person who believes a violation of [the] Act . . . has occurred, may file a complaint," and sue if the complaint is dismissed, 2 U.S.C. § 437g(a)(8), a plaintiff must have standing to file a complaint in federal court, which requires a personal and tangible interest in the outcome, or the court is without jurisdiction under the Constitution to hear the claim. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992).

In his opposition to the FEC's motion to dismiss the initial complaint, Mr. Vroom alleged an " informational injury," citing Federal Election Commission v. Akins, 524 U.S. 11, 118 S.Ct. 1777, 141 L.Ed.2d 10 (1998). Opp'n [Dkt. 9] at 9. Akins held that the plaintiffs had alleged a concrete and particularized injury where the FEC had not defined the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (" AIPAC" ) as a political committee because this determination deprived the plaintiffs of information regarding contributions to federal candidates

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made by AIPAC. Id. at 21. The Supreme Court found that voters have a cognizable injury when they are unable to obtain information that helps them evaluate candidates for office. Id. Similarly, " Mr. Vroom claimed in his opposition that he was prevented from seeking information that will help him to evaluate candidates for office." See Order at 4. As a result, the Court provided Mr. Vroom with the opportunity to amend his complaint to reflect this injury. Id.

Mr. Vroom filed his Amended Complaint on January 7, 2013, which includes allegations of an informational injury. Am. Compl. [Dkt. 13]. He alleges that the FEC's dismissal of his complaint " denies Vroom the ability to fully and accurately determine the source, magnitude and ultimate recipients of political contributions made by the General Electric PAC." Id. at 5-6. The FEC moves to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, ...


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