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FEC v. Committee for a Constitutional Presidency-McCarthy '76


On March 7, 1979, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted summary judgment to the Committee for a Constitutional Presidency-McCarthy '76, defendants in a suit filed by the FEC on August 22, 1977.

The FEC alleged that the defendants had improperly classified a series of payments (speaking fees from universities) as "other receipts" rather than as "contributions," and requested a mandatory injunction from the court requiring the defendant to amend its reports accordingly.

The court agreed with both parties that there were no material issues in dispute. The court also agreed with the FEC that the payments in question were, in fact, "contributions" rather than "other receipts." However, while the court concluded that the defendant may have committed a technical error, it declined to enter the requested order for the following reasons:

  • The defendant had acted in good faith and had fully reported all payments on appropriate FEC forms.
  • In 1976, Congress amended the reporting provisions of 434(b), which now provide that when candidates and committees "show that best efforts have been used to obtain and submit the information required by this subsection, they shall be deemed in compliance with this subsection." Since the events of this case occurred before Congress adopted the amendment, the amendment does not control the case. However, it does provide support for the court's view that a candidate could act in good faith and yet technically violate a provision of the Act; it also corroborates the court's conclusion that sanctions should not be imposed on a public figure who acts in good faith.
  • The public interest would not be served by the requested court order.

This public interest in disclosure is already satisfied by the detailed information supplied by the defendant. Furthermore, a court-imposed remedy would not ensure better compliance in the future since a candidate who acted in the same manner today would probably not be considered in violation of the Act due to the "best efforts" amendment.

Source:    FEC RecordJune 1979. FEC v. Committee for A Constitutional Presidency-McCarthy '76, 2 Fed. Elec. Camp. Fin. Guide (CCH) ¶9074 (D.D.C. 1979).