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Democratic National Committee v. FEC (08-1083)


On June 24, 2008, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that the Commission failed to act timely upon the DNC’s administrative complaint filed with the Commission against Senator John McCain’s Presidential campaign.


According to the court complaint, the DNC filed an administrative complaint with the Commission on February 25, 2008, alleging that Senator McCain and his Presidential campaign violated the Presidential Primary Matching Payment Account Act (the Matching Payment Act). The DNC alleged that Senator McCain’s campaign entered into a binding agreement with the Commission for the receipt of primary matching funds. Senator McCain subsequently informed the Commission that he was withdrawing from the Matching Payment Act Program, but the DNC alleged that his purported withdrawal violated the Matching Payment Act. The DNC alleged that Senator McCain had pledged the matching funds as collateral for a bank loan and thus may not withdraw from the program.

The DNC filed a court complaint on April 14, 2008, that is similar to its June 24 complaint. The DNC’s April complaint claimed that the Commission would not be able to act on its administrative complaint in a timely manner and thus the court should grant the DNC the right to pursue enforcement of the Act in court against Senator McCain and his committee. The District Court dismissed the April complaint, stating that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the case because the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) allows a party to file in court only after 120 days have passed from the filing of an administrative complaint. See 2 U.S.C. §437g(a)(8)(A) and the June 2008 Record . The Act requires the affirmative vote of at least four commissioners to take certain actions on administrative complaints. Although the Commission currently has six commissioners, when the DNC’s February administrative complaint and April court complaint were filed, the Commission only had two commissioners.


The DNC asks the court to:

  • Declare that the Commission’s alleged failure to act on the DNC’s administrative complaint is contrary to law; and
  • Enter an order directing the FEC to conform to such declaration within 30 days and authorizing the DNC to bring a civil action against the McCain campaign to remedy the violations if the Commission does not resolve the complaint within 30 days.

Source:   FEC RecordAugust 2008