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RNC v. DNC and FEC


On November 1, 1996, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Republican National Committee (RNC) against the FEC and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The suit was triggered by the DNC's initial decision not to file a pre-general election report.

The RNC filed the suit on the same day it filed an administrative complaint with the FEC alleging violations of the election law by the DNC.

In the lawsuit, the RNC claimed that the DNC had violated the law by failing to file the pre-general election report. The DNC responded that it had not made any contributions or expenditures on behalf of federal candidates that had not already been disclosed, so that, in its view, no report was required.

In the RNC's view, a political committee must file a pre-general election report if it receives contributions or makes expenditures on behalf of federal candidates during an election cycle and not just if it receives a contribution during the reporting period. Moreover, the RNC said that the DNC had, in fact, made contributions during the time period covered by the pre-general report—October 1 through October 16—because it had transferred thousands of dollars to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic state committees.

The RNC asked the court to:

  • Require the DNC to file its pre-general election report prior to November 5, 1996,
  • Direct the FEC to take expedited measures to require such filing, and
  • Enjoin the DNC from making any expenditures until the report was filed.

Court ruling

In a ruling from the bench, the court granted the FEC's motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that the court did not have jurisdiction in the matter. The court based its decision on the recent appellate court decision in lawsuits filed against the FEC by Presidential contenders Ross Perot and John Hagelin.

The Act gives the FEC exclusive jurisdiction to hear complaints alleging violations of the laws governing elections. In 2 U.S.C. §437g(a)(8), the law allows complainants to file suit against the FEC only for dismissing their complaint or for failing to act within 120 days after the complaint is filed. The RNC filed its lawsuit in district court the same day that it filed its administrative complaint with the FEC, falling well short of the 120-day period.

The court also dismissed the DNC from the complaint, saying that a private party had no right of action against another private party for alleged violations of the Act.

Thus, the court denied the RNC's request for injunctive relief against the DNC and the FEC.

Source:   FEC RecordDecember 1996