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Common Cause v. FEC (87-2224)


The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted the FEC's motion to dismiss Common Cause's suit and to dissolve a protective order that had placed court documents under seal. In its order of January 11, 1989, the court noted that Common Cause did not oppose the FEC's motion.


In its suit, filed August 12, 1987, Common Cause asked the court to declare that the FEC failed to take action within the required 120-day period on an administrative complaint Common Cause had filed with the Commission on October 28, 1986. Common Cause further asked the court to direct the FEC to take action within 30 days, pursuant to 2 U.S.C. §437g(a)(8). Civil Action No. 87-2224. Common Cause had alleged in its administrative complaint that the National Republican Senatorial Committee had made excessive contributions to several candidates, a violation of 2 U.S.C. §441a(h).

FEC's Motion to Dismiss Suit and Lift Seal

The Commission asked the court to dismiss Common Cause's suit because the agency had taken final action on the administrative complaint, thus rendering the litigation moot. On December 23, 1988, the Commission had voted to enter into a conciliation agreement with the National Republican Senatorial Committee and had then closed the file. Citing other "failure to act" cases filed against the agency pursuant to 2 U.S.C. §437g(a)(8), the FEC pointed out that the courts have granted similar dismissals once the agency has taken final action.

The FEC had originally requested that the court impose a seal on documents filed in the case that related to the administrative complaint, which was pending at the time and therefore subject to the confidentiality provision of 2 U.S.C. §437g(a)(12). That provision prohibits the agency from making public any information on administrative complaints until the case is resolved. The court imposed a protective seal on October 2, 1987.

Under another provision, however, the Commission must release to the public the results of its inquiries once an enforcement matter is resolved. 2 U.S.C. §437g(a)(4)(B)(i). In its motion to lift the protective seal, the FEC stated that the confidentiality requirements of 437g(a)(12) no longer applied since the agency had since closed the file on the case.

Source:   FEC Record—March 1989. Common Cause v. FEC, No. 87-2224 (D.D.C. Feb. 8, 1988) (memorandum and order), dismissed as moot, (D.D.C. 1989) (unpublished order).


District Court (DC)

Court decisions: