FEC v. Citizens for LaRouche
On September 17, 1984, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued an order in FEC v. Citizens for LaRouche (Civil Action No. 83-0373), which granted summary judgment in favor of the FEC and dismissed the defendants' counterclaims.
On February 9, 1983, the FEC filed suit against Lyndon H. LaRouche and the Citizens for LaRouche (CFL), Mr. LaRouche's principal campaign committee for his publicly funded Presidential campaign in 1980. In the suit, the FEC asked the district court to declare that the LaRouche campaign had violated a conciliation agreement entered into by CFL with the FEC. The Commission claimed that the campaign had failed to pay any portion of the $15,000 civil penalty stipulated in the agreement. The conciliation agreement had resulted from an enforcement action in which the FEC had found probable cause to believe that, among other violations, the LaRouche campaign had accepted unlawful contributions in 1979 and 1980.
In its suit, therefore, the FEC had asked the district court:
- To declare that CFL had violated the conciliation agreement;
- To order Mr. LaRouche and the LaRouche campaign to pay the $15,000 civil penalty (with interest);
- To permanently enjoin the LaRouche campaign from further violations of the conciliation agreement;
- To declare that Mr. LaRouche was jointly and severally liable for the civil penalty and that, in failing to pay the penalty, he had violated one of the terms of his certification letter. (He had signed the letter in November 1979 as a prerequisite to being eligible for primary matching funds); and
- To permanently enjoin Mr. LaRouche from further violating the terms of the certification letter.
Mr. LaRouche and the LaRouche campaign admitted that it had failed to pay any portion of the civil penalty. The defendants maintained, however, that the entire written conciliation agreement had been voided by the FEC's alleged breach of both the written agreement and a supplemental oral agreement that allegedly had been reached between the campaign and FEC attorneys. As a result, the defendants claimed, the FEC could not recover the civil penalty.
District court ruling
The court noted that, under the election law, a conciliation agreement may only be entered into with the affirmative vote of four Commissioners. See 2 U.S.C. §437g(a)(4)(A)(i). The court found, therefore, that it had to base its consideration of the case exclusively on the terms of the written conciliation agreement approved by the Commission. The Commission had not voted on the terms of the alleged oral agreement; nor had the written conciliation agreement made reference to a supplemental oral agreement.
The court noted that, to file a civil action against parties that violate the terms of a conciliation agreement, "the Commission need only establish that the person has violated, in whole or in part, any requirement of such a conciliation agreement.... " See U.S.C. §437g(a)(5)(D). Since the LaRouche campaign admitted that it had never paid the civil penalty required by the conciliation agreement, the court found that "the FEC is entitled to declaratory relief in this action and receipt of an accelerated payment of $15,000 from defendant CFL."
The court further found that the candidate, Lyndon H. LaRouche, must also be held liable for the unpaid civil penalty. The court cited the letter of agreements that Mr. LaRouche had entered into with the FEC as a condition of matching fund eligibility. Under the agreements, both Mr. LaRouche and his campaign committee were held liable for any civil penalties assessed against his campaign. Finding no merit to the campaign's counterclaim for damages resulting from "fraudulent inducement and fraudulent actions by the FEC," the court dismissed the counterclaim "for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted."
Source: FEC Record — November 1984. FEC v. Citizens for LaRouche, 2 Fed. Elec. Camp. Fin. Guide (CCH) ¶9214, (D.D.C. 1984).