Under the Constitution, Abdul Hassan isn’t qualified to be president, but that hasn't stopped the New York lawyer from launching a long-shot campaign for the White House -- and applying for taxpayer-underwritten presidential campaign matching funds.
Members of the Federal Election Commission agreed unanimously Thursday that Hassan would be ineligible to receive the money but postponed making their decision official with a vote.
Hassan, a naturalized citizen, was born in Guyana. That means he’s barred from serving as the nation’s top elected leader. The Constitution says that “[n]o Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President."
That also means Hassan can’t receive public matching funds for his campaign, FEC Chair Cynthia Bauerly concluded. "Clear and self-avowed constitutional ineligibility for office is one of the few instances where the Commission’s exercise of its discretion to withhold funds is appropriate," she wrote in an advisory opinion before the meeting.
Commissioners Don McGhan and Steven Walther reasoned that providing Hassan with matching funds would legitimize an impermissible presidential campaign. They worried that Hassan could point to a favorable FEC ruling to fundraise for a non-viable presidential campaign.
Furthermore, McGhan noted that influential early voting states, namely Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, require presidential candidates to satisfy all constitutional requirements for ballot eligibility. Hassan would be unable to meet this pre-condition.
The commissioners postponed a final vote, however, because Hassan has filed suit to overturn the constitutional ban on foreign-born citizens serving as president.
He contends the 14th Amendment, which prohibits any law abridging the privileges or immunities of U.S. citizens, trumps Article II, Section 1, the ban on non-U.S.-born citizens occupying the presidency.
A New York federal court dismissed his case, but he has appealed. On this constitutional question, the Supreme Court could be the ultimate arbiter.
Even if his White House prospects are foreclosed, Hassan has other avenues for his political ambitions. Non-U.S.-born citizens have served in many other high offices. Among them, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a native of Austria, and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who was born in Canada.