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Committee to Elect Lyndon LaRouche v. FEC; FEC v. Committee to Elect Lyndon LaRouche; Jones v. FEC


On August 23, 1979, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the Commission's action in denying primary matching fund payments to Lyndon LaRouche, candidate of the U.S. Labor Party, during the 1976 Presidential primary campaign.


In October 1976, Mr. LaRouche "certified" to the Commission that he had met the eligibility requirement to receive primary matching funds by having raised at least $5,000, in contributions of $250 or less, in each of at least 20 states. Because this "certification" was in the form of a one-page notarized statement, the Commission requested further financial information to support this statement. Later that month, the candidate's principal campaign committee, the Committee to Elect Lyndon LaRouche (CTEL), submitted a computer printout listing contributions in excess of the threshold. Once again, however, the Commission received no supporting documentation of the listed contributions. A subsequent Commission audit, initiated to verify Mr. LaRouche's eligibility, raised substantial questions as to whether many contributions had been made by residents of the States to which they were attributed. After further investigation and an expanded audit, the Commission determined on February 10, 1977, that Mr. LaRouche had not met the threshold requirement in at least two States. Accordingly, the Commission ruled that Mr. LaRouche was not entitled to primary matching funds. On February 14, 1977, CTEL filed suit challenging the Commission's decision.

CTEL argued that the Commission had overstated both the candidate's burden in establishing eligibility and its own role in certifying eligibility. As a result, CTEL maintained, the Commission had violated the Act by denying matching funds to Mr. LaRouche. To establish eligibility, CTEL asserted, the candidate need only "attest authoritatively" in good faith and with knowledge that he has met the threshold. The Commission's role in the certification process is limited to ensuring that the candidate has so attested. CTEL also objected to the Commission's investigative procedures in determining Mr. LaRouche's ineligibility.

The Commission argued that the candidate must not merely attest, but demonstrate to the Commission's satisfaction that he has adequate documentation to support his contention that the threshold has been met. Furthermore, the Commission maintained it is empowered not only to review documentation supplied by the candidate, but also to audit records or campaign contributions and to verify reported contributions by interviewing individual contributors, if necessary.

To properly determine the respective roles of the candidate and the Commission in the certification process, the court focused on two relevant concerns: Congress's intent, on the one hand, to withhold public funds from frivolous candidates and its desire, on the other, to provide prompt payment to serious candidates. The best way to accommodate these two objectives, the court determined, is to construe the Act as the Commission had. Since Congress established eligibility thresholds, it could also impose reasonable procedures to ensure that those thresholds were met. The Commission's approach, the court pointed out, involves an objective standard, which ensures that eligibility criteria will be applied to all candidates in an equitable manner.

Although the Commission acted ultra vires in conducting a premature audit, the court found the Commission's actions reasonable and nonprejudicial. Therefore, since Mr. LaRouche's submissions fell far short of the documentation required to establish his eligibility, the court concluded that the Commission had acted properly in not approving matching funds.

FEC v. Committee to Elect Lyndon LaRouche and Jones v. FEC

Also on August 23, 1979, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld three actions of the District Court for the District of Columbia in an appeal which had been filed on September 28, 1977, by the Committee to Elect Lyndon LaRouche, the National Caucus of Labor Committees, the New Solidarity International Press Service, Inc., and Campaigner Publications, Inc. This was an appeal from an order of the district court enforcing subpoenas issued by the FEC during the investigation of Lyndon LaRouche's eligibility for primary matching funds. In upholding the district court's action, the court of appeals maintained that:

  1. The district court had jurisdiction to determine this case despite appellants' argument that the District of Columbia was not the place where the Commission's inquiry took place. The court maintained that the Commission was conducting a nationwide investigation from its national office in the District of Columbia and should be afforded broad discretion, "within the bounds of reasonableness," in selecting this jurisdiction as its place of inquiry.
  2. The district court had personal jurisdiction over the appellants despite the fact that they were served in New York rather than in the District of Columbia . The court pointed out that the scope of the Commission's responsibilities is nationwide and its power is sufficiently broad to warrant an implied grant of authority for extraterritorial service of process under 2 U.S.C. §437(b).
  3. The district court had not denied the appellants an opportunity to demonstrate that the Commission had issued the subpoenas in retaliation for two suits which the appellants had brought against the Commission. The court of appeals pointed out that the appellants could not have been denied such an opportunity since they had never requested it.

The above appeal was argued with Leroy B. Jones v. FEC. In Jones, the appellants repeated numerous constitutional, statutory and common law claims originally stated in their initial suit. The claims arose from the Commission's field interviews of LaRouche contributors, the manner in which the interviews were conducted and the scope of the questions asked. The district court had granted summary judgment to the FEC. The court of appeals upheld the district court's action with respect to all but two of the allegations. The court of appeals determined that the district court had erred in granting summary judgment with regard to the appellants' claim that the Commission had inquired during field interviews into issues bearing no relation at all to the subject matter of an otherwise legitimate investigation into a candidate's eligibility to receive primary matching funds; and appellant Jones' claim that he was subjected to a warrantless seizure of certain financial documents and bank records. These allegations were remanded to the district court for factual determinations. In all other respects, the court affirmed the decision under review.

Supreme Court action

On February 19, 1980, the Supreme Court denied a petition for certiorari in these three cases. The Federal Election Commission had filed a brief opposing the petition.

Source:   FEC Record — April 1980; October 1979. Committee to Elect Lyndon LaRouche v. FEC, 613 F.2d 834 (D.C. Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 1074 (1980). FEC v. Committee to Elect Lyndon LaRouche, 613 F.2d 849 (D.C. Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 1074 (1980). Jones v. Unknown Agents of the Federal Election Commission, 613 F.2d 864 (D.C. Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 1074 (1980).