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LaRouche v. FEC (92-1100)


On July 2, 1993, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit[1] directed the Commission to certify matching funds to Lyndon LaRouche, Jr., for his 1992 Presidential primary campaign. The court held that the Commission did not have statutory authority to deny matching funds based on its conviction that Mr. LaRouche would fail to keep his promise to comply with the law.

The Supreme Court, without comment, refused to review the appeals court decision.


In February 1992, the agency determined that Mr. LaRouche's written agreement and certification to comply with the law-a requirement for receiving matching funds-were not made in good faith, based on his long record of noncompliance with the federal campaign law and his criminal indictments and convictions for fraud. The Commission therefore found he was not eligible for matching funds. Mr. LaRouche immediately challenged the decision in a suit filed with the D.C. Circuit.[2]

The court reversed the FEC's decision, holding that the statute did not grant the agency the authority to evaluate the reliability of a candidate agreement.

Mr. LaRouche had argued that the law's enforcement provisions, which grant the FEC the authority to take action with respect to past or ongoing violations of the law, implied a Congressional intent to withhold FEC authority to assess a candidate's future likelihood of violating the law. The court agreed, observing that the voters should be the ones to judge a candidate's integrity.

The court further noted that Congress intended public funds to be dispensed on a nondiscriminatory basis: "Any inquiry into the bona fides of candidates' promises would take the Commission into highly subjective territory that would imperil the assurance of even-handed treatment."

The FEC had argued that its position was supported by the court's decision in Committee to Elect Lyndon LaRouche v. Federal Election Commission (CTEL),3 where the court allowed the agency to consult reports filed by the candidate's past campaign when deciding whether to accept his current threshold submission for matching funds. The court, however, said that CTEL stressed the need to apply objective standards when evaluating a matching fund submission, quite different from the use of subjective criteria "to evaluate a candidate's character."

The court also rejected the FEC's claim that its position was upheld in another suit, In re, Carter-Mondale Reelection Committee, Inc.[3] "We find nothing in Carter-Mondale to undermine CTEL's general view that in the absence of an explicit authorization by Congress the Commission may not deny funds on the basis of its view of a candidate's subjective intent."

The majority opinion was filed by Judge Williams; an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part was filed by Judge Wald. She said that the Commission had exceeded its statutory authority only in its consideration of Mr. LaRouche's criminal convictions (mail fraud and conspiring to defraud the IRS), since they were not directly related to his campaign. However, she also said: "I do not believe that the statute requires that the FEC, in determining a candidate's eligibility for public monies, disregard evidence in its own files that indicates that a candidate may well intend to defraud the Commission-and the American taxpayer."


[1] The three-judge panel consisted of Judges Wald, Buckley and Williams.

[2] Commission actions under the Presidential public funding law are directly reviewable by this court. 2 U.S.C. §9041. 3 613 F.2d 834 (D.C. Cir. 1979).

[3] 642 F.2d 538 (D.C. Cir. 1980).

Source:   FEC Record January 1994; September 1993. LaRouche & Democrats for Economic Recovery '92 v. FEC, 996 F.2d 1263 (D.C. Cir.), cert. denied, 114 S. Ct. 550 (1993).