Supreme Court ruling leaves group’s classification undecided

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is letting private citizens second guess the Federal Election Commission, ruling Monday that they can sue over the agency’s decisions not to require financial disclosure from certain groups.
But the 6-3 decision spared a pro-Israel lobbying group from telling how much money it spent on election-connected communications with its members.
Left undecided was whether the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, is a “political committee” subject to federal campaign regulations on spending and reporting. That determination was left for the FEC under new rules for distinguishing political committees from membership organizations.
In other matters, the court:
ù Ruled that people cannot be prosecuted on federal money-laundering charges in one state if the transactions occurred entirely in another. The justices said a woman charged with using a Florida bank to launder proceeds from Missouri drug deals must be prosecuted in Florida, not Missouri.
ù Agreed to use the government’s effort to deport a group of Palestinians to clarify limits on court review of such cases. At issue is whether lower federal courts lacked authority to hear the Palestinians’ argument that they were singled out for selective enforcement of immigration laws.
ù Said it will decide whether federal agencies are required to bargain with the unions representing their employees over subjects the unions raise during the life of a contract agreement.
ù Refused to require a Massachusetts high school’s student newspaper and yearbook to run advertisements promoting sexual abstinence, turning away arguments that such refusal amounted to a violation of someone’s free-speech rights.
A group of politically active individuals opposed to AIPAC’s pro-Israel views filed a complaint with the FEC in 1989, alleging that AIPAC had violated the 1971 law. They later sued to force the commission’s hand.
Monday’s decision sent the dispute back to the commission. “The FEC should proceed to determine whether or not AIPAC’s expenditures qualify as ‘membership communications’ and thereby fall outside the scope of ‘expenditures’ that could qualify it as a political committee,” Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote.
He said new FEC rules defining membership organizations “could significantly affect” that determination.
AIPAC lawyer Thomas Hungar said the organization was “thrilled” by the ruling and confident AIPAC will be deemed a membership organization — not a political committee — under the FEC’s new rules.