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Kuhn for Congress v. FEC


On January 6, 2014, Kuhn for Congress, the principal campaign committee for South Carolina Congressional candidate John Kuhn, filed a petition for review in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina challenging the Commission’s assessment of an $8,800 civil penalty. The administrative fine resulted from the committee's failure to file its April 2013 Quarterly report by the April 15 deadline. The complaint contends that the penalty assessed by the FEC is excessive, and suggests that a fine of $300 would be a reasonable alternative.

On December 15, the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina dismissed Kuhn for Congress’s challenge to a civil penalty the Commission had assessed against it for failing to file a campaign disclosure report on time.

The court accepted the recommendation of a Magistrate Judge who found the Commission had reasonably calculated the $8,800 fine it levied and had afforded the plaintiff due process.


According to the complaint, the Kuhn for Congress Committee filed its April Quarterly report more than four months late, on August 20, 2013. Among other things, Mr. Kuhn claims he had difficulty finding a treasurer for his campaign and appointed his business accountant, Amanda Michelle Perry. Ms. Perry was pregnant at the time and, according to the complaint, gave birth eight days before the March 19 special election for South Carolina’s first congressional district, in which Mr. Kuhn was a candidate. In Ms. Perry's absence, the complaint says the assistant treasurer and an accountant hired by the committee were unable to resolve mathematical discrepancies in the April Quarterly report and, as a result, failed to file it on time.

The complaint notes that the April Quarterly report was due after Mr. Kuhn lost the election, and claims the FEC's actions violate the plaintiff's constitutional rights to due process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The plaintiff asks the court to modify or set aside the fine.

Court decision

On October 8, 2014, Magistrate Judge Wallace Dixon recommended the district court dismiss the Kuhn for Congress suit. In his recommendation, the Magistrate Judge found the $8,800 civil penalty was reasonable and properly calculated pursuant to the Federal Election Campaign Act and Commission regulations. The recommendation also found the Commission afforded the campaign due process and the campaign failed to support its claims that the Commission fine infringed upon its Constitutional rights.

In its opinion, the district court concludes, "the Magistrate Judge fairly and accurately summarized the facts and applied the correct principles of law" in finding the plaintiff’s case to be without merit. The court adopted the Magistrate Judge's recommendations and granted the Commission’s motion to dismiss the suit.

Source:   FEC RecordJanuary 2015; March 2014