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Anderson v. FEC (80-0272)


On April 10, 1981, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine dismissed John B. Anderson v. FEC (Civil Action No. 80-0272P) in response to a motion to dismiss the suit filed by plaintiffs on the same day. The suit had been remanded to the district court after certification of constitutional questions to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Several plaintiffs-John B. Anderson, a candidate in the 1980 Presidential elections, the National Unity Campaign 441a(d) Committee and three individual plaintiffs-had brought suit on September 8, 1980, asking the district court to certify the following constitutional questions to the appeals court:

  • Does Section 441a(a)(1)(B), which entitles a national party committee to receive contributions of up to   $20,000 per year from individuals, infringe on plaintiff's First and Fifth Amendment rights; and
  • Does Section 441a(d), which permits a national party committee to make special "coordinated party expenditures" on behalf of its Presidential candidate, infringe on plaintiffs' First and Fifth Amendment rights?

Plaintiffs had also sought a preliminary injunction from the district court, directing the Commission to permit the application of Sections 441a(a)(1)(B) and 441a(d) to the National Unity Campaign 441a(d) Committee, which had registered as a political committee the day before plaintiffs filed suit.

District court ruling

On October 14, 1980, the district court certified plaintiffs' constitutional questions to the appeals court but denied plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. The court held that plaintiffs had not exhausted the administrative relief available to them under the election law. Moreover, the court noted that any injunction granted would have been permanent, rather than temporary, since the election would be held within two and one-half weeks of its ruling.

Appeals court ruling

On October 30, 1980, the appeals court granted the FEC's motion to remand the case to the district court for further fact finding. The court noted that, if plaintiffs had sought an advisory opinion from the FEC before filing suit, the court "...would likely have had more facts before us than we do presently and would have been better able to evaluate plaintiffs' constitutional claims."

Plaintiffs seek administrative relief from FEC

On November 4, 1980, prior to seeking dismissal of their suit, plaintiffs requested an advisory opinion from the Federal Election Commission on the status of the National Unity Campaign and the National Unity Campaign 441a(d) Committee as national party committees operating on Mr. Anderson's behalf. In AO 1980-131, issued on November 20, 1980, the Commission determined that neither committee qualified as the national committee of a political party and, therefore, that neither committee was entitled to receive up to $20,000 in contributions from individuals or to make coordinated party expenditures.

Source: FEC RecordJuly 1981. Anderson v. FEC, 634 F.2d 3 (1st Cir. 1980) (en banc).