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Common Cause v. FEC (83-0720)


On June 10, 1983, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia approved dismissal of Common Cause's suit against the FEC (Civil Action No. 83-0720). Common Cause requested the dismissal because, on May 23, 1983, the FEC had taken final action on the administrative complaint which had precipitated the suit.


Pursuant to 26 U.S.C. §437g(a)(8)(A), Common Cause had asked the district court to issue an order directing the Commission to take final action, within 30 days, on a complaint Common Cause had filed on September 26, 1980.[1] In its administrative complaint, Common Cause had alleged that five political committees had made independent expenditures on behalf of the 1980 Republican Presidential nominee which were in violation of 26 U.S.C. §9012(f).2 (This provision prohibits unauthorized committees from making expenditures exceeding $1,000 to further the election of a publicly funded Presidential nominee.)

Alleging that the committees were not, in fact, independent of the official Reagan campaign, Common Cause had claimed that the committees' activities also resulted in violations of:

  • 26 U.S.C. §9012(b)(1), which makes it unlawful for a major party Presidential nominee who receives public funding to accept private contributions;
  • 26 U.S.C.§9012(a)(1), which makes it unlawful for a major party Presidential nominee to incur campaign expenditures in excess of the amount of public funding he receives; and
  • 2 U.S.C. §441a(a), which prohibits political committees from making contributions in excess of $5,000, per election, to a federal candidate.


[1] This complaint was merged with a similar one filed several months earlier by the Carter-Mondale Reelection Committee and the Democratic National Committee.

[2] On July 15, 1980, the FEC filed suit in the district court against three of the committees named in Common Cause's complaint. The FEC sought the court's declaratory judgment that the committees' proposed expenditures were in violation of 26 U.S.C. §9012(f) and that the provision was constitutional as applied to the committees' expenditures. On August 28, 1981, the court ruled that section 9012(f) was unconstitutional as applied to the defendant committees. On January 19, 1982, the Supreme Court voted 4 to 4 on the issue. While this split vote left the district court decision intact, the Court itself made no ruling on the constitutionality of the provision.

Source:   FEC RecordAugust 1983; May 1983