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Green Party's Nader Fails to Show Standing in FEC Appeal

By Brett Snider, Esq. on August 05, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Remember Ralph Nader? Sure you do.

He was the spotlight third party candidate before Ron Paul and his libertarian ilk swept into the national scene, and he ran in the 2004 presidential election and (*spoiler alert*) did not become our 44th President.

What happened? Well, some would argue that his Green Party platform of legalizing marijuana and environmental justice was too liberal for a recently post-9/11 America, but Nader blames the FEC.

FEC Complaint

Nader's complaint stems from his inability to get on the ballot in several states, a practice that continues to haunt the Green Party, and one that Nader blames on lax enforcement by the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

After failing to secure the presidency in 2004, Nader filed a complaint with the FEC alleging that various organizations, including many that supported democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry, were in violation of federal election laws, but his complaint was dismissed.

Not satisfied to let this one die, Nader filed suit under 2 U.S.C. § 437g(a)(8), claiming that he was aggrieved by the FEC's administrative dismissal and sought remedy in the D.C. Circuit.

The district court in D.C. granted the FEC summary judgment against him, and now before the D.C. Circuit Court, Nader failed to see his appeal through because he lacked standing under two separate theories.

Competitor Standing

In late July, the D.C. Circuit granted two American trucking groups standing, in part because they had competitor standing, a claim that an illegal law would significantly change their competition and cause them injury.

The D.C. Circuit refused to grant Nader the same shake standing-wise because he couldn't present a redressible claim; the 2004 election was already over and Nader had not announced any plans to run in future elections, so there is no way for the court to remedy his claim.

In addition, claims that he might run "some day" are too speculative for the court to consider for Article III standing.

Informational Standing

Under the Supreme Court's FEC v. Akins, a party can have Article III standing to sue the FEC if they can prove that:

  1. A federal law required disclosure of certain information and
  2. There is an actionable interest in that information

In Shays v. FEC, the D.C. Circuit recognized that a U.S. congressman had an interest in evaluating the role of outside groups in a presidential election because it relates to informed participation in the political process, which is an actionable interest.

Nader, however, seems to want this information from the FEC so that he can pursue Kerry's supporters in other court actions, and the D.C. Circuit doesn't consider desire to "get the bad guys" or promote law enforcement a concrete interest to confer standing.

Bottom Line:

The Court won't grant standing for past election cases where there is no remedy, but if Nader takes up the Green Party banner in the future, he might have a case.

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