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Khachaturian v. FEC


On May 17, 1993, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana dismissed this case, ruling that Jon Khachaturian failed to raise a substantial constitutional challenge to the $1,000 contribution limit as applied to his independent candidacy. The district court had previously certified the constitutional questions to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The appeals court, however, concluded that the certification was premature and remanded the case to the district court with instructions to determine whether certification was merited. The district court found that it was not.

Mr. Khachaturian appealed that decision but, on October 13, 1993, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit dismissed his appeal at his own request.


Mr. Khachaturian was an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate in Louisiana's 1992 open primary. His suit, filed shortly before the election, contended that the $1,000 limit on contributions from individuals (2 U.S.C. §441a(a)(1)(A)) discriminated against his candidacy because it prevented him from raising sufficient funds to compete effectively against the incumbent major-party candidate.[1] He said that he had contribution pledges of $200,000 but could only accept $75,000 under the limit.

The district court certified his constitutional questions to the court of appeals in accordance with 2 U.S.C. §437h.[2]

(Mr. Khachaturian also asked the court to prohibit the FEC from enforcing the $1,000 limit against him and to order Louisiana 's Secretary of State to place his name on the general election ballot even if he lost the primary. The court denied the motion.)

Appeals court remand

The court of appeals remanded the case to the lower court with instructions to determine whether Mr. Khachaturian's challenge was frivolous in light of Buckley v. Valeo. In that decision, the Supreme Court upheld the $1,000 contribution limit as constitutional on its face and rejected claims that it discriminated against independent and minor-party candidates. In order for Mr. Khachaturian to present a plausible challenge to the $1,000 limit as applied to his candidacy, the court of appeals said that he would at least have to provide factual support for his argument that "the $1,000 limit had a serious adverse effect on the initiation and scope of his candidacy."

District court order

The district court said that Mr. Khachaturian "fail[ed] to come even close" to alleging facts suggesting that amounts in excess of the $1,000 limit would have affected the outcome of the election. The court concluded: "The law is clear...that the $1,000 campaign contribution limit applies to minor party candidates....As a matter of law, the plaintiff fails to raise a colorable constitutional claim." The court therefore granted the FEC's motion to dismiss. (Civil Action No. 92-3232, Section F.)


[1] Mr. Khachaturian had made similar claims in an advisory opinion request in which he asked for an exemption from the $1,000 limit on constitutional grounds. In its response, AO 1992-35, the Commission said that it did not have jurisdiction to rule on the constitutionality of the limit but noted that the Supreme Court had upheld the limit in Buckley v. Valeo.

[2] Section 437h states: "The district court immediately shall certify all questions of constitutionality of this [Federal Election Campaign] Act to the United States court of appeals for the circuit involved, which shall hear the matter sitting en banc."

Source:   FEC Record — December 1993 and August 1993. Khachaturian v. FEC, 980 F.2d 330 (5th Cir. 1992) (en banc); No. 92-3232 (E.D. La. May 10, 1993), on remand.