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FEC v. Californians for Democratic Representation


On January 9, 1986, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled that Californians for Democratic Representation (CDR), a nonprofit organization registered with the California Fair Political Practices Commission, had violated various provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act in the course of conducting a slate mail program during 1982. (Civil Action No. 85-2086.)


CDR's slate mail program consisted of political ads distributed through direct mail to the general public. In addition to endorsing ballot issues and state and local candidates, CDR's slate mail program endorsed federal candidates active in California's 1982 primary and general elections. Candidates could purchase advertising space from CDR at fair market value. (A candidate's ad might include, for example, his/her photograph and a write-up.) CDR also listed candidates who did not purchase advertising space, at no charge to them.

Court's ruling

The court ruled that those federal candidates who had paid for advertising space in CDR's slate mailings had not contributed to CDR; nor did their advertising space constitute in-kind contributions from CDR to the candidates.

On the other hand, the court found that costs incurred by CDR for listing federal candidates free of charge in mailings constituted expenditures by CDR on behalf of the candidates, which were subject to the election law. (Nine federal candidates were listed free of charge in mailings for the primary elections, and three candidates were listed in general election mailings.) Accordingly, the court found the CDR had violated the election law by failing to register and report as a political committee when these expenditures exceeded $1,000 during 1982. See 2 U.S.C. §§431(4)(A), 433 and 434.

Finally, the court ruled that CDR's ads failed to state who paid for them and whether or not the candidates had authorized the mailings. See 2 U.S.C. §441d(a).

The court imposed a $15,00 civil penalty on the defendants. Subsequently the court denied defendants' motion to have the penalty reduced.

Source:   FEC RecordMarch 1986. FEC v. Californians for Democratic Representation, No. 85-2086-JMI, (C.D. Cal. Jan. 9, 1986) (unpublished opinion).