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Spannaus v. FEC (85-0404)


On August 26, 1986, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted the FEC's motion for summary judgment in Spannaus v. FEC (Civil Action No. 85-Civ-0404 (LLS)). The Court dismissed plaintiffs' suit with prejudice. It held that Lyndon LaRouche's 1984 Presidential primary campaign committee and the campaign's treasurer, Edward W. Spannaus, had "failed to make even a preliminary showing of bad faith on the part of the Commission [in conducting investigations of the campaign's potential violations of the election law] or to allege facts sufficient to show an infringement of their First Amendment rights...."


In a suit filed with the district court on January 16, 1985, plaintiffs asked the court to make the following declarations:

  • FEC investigations of the LaRouche Campaign's 1984 campaign activities were "motivated solely by bad faith" and were "an abuse of process," in violation of federal laws and the U.S. Constitution.
  • The FEC was "selectively and discriminatorily enforcing the election laws resulting in violation of the plaintiffs' rights of equal protection."
  • In seeking information from contributors to the LaRouche Campaign concerning certain credit card contributions, the FEC had abridged First Amendment rights by creating a chilling effect on: (1) the contributors' participation in the electoral process and (2) the LaRouche Campaign's ability to recruit volunteers.
  • The FEC had violated the confidentiality provisions of the federal election laws.

District court's ruling

The court affirmed the FEC's claim that, in initiating investigations against the LaRouche Campaign, the agency had followed procedures established by the Federal Election Campaign Act and FEC regulations and had undertaken each investigation "for legitimate purposes." Although plaintiffs asserted that the FEC had failed to respond to the LaRouche Campaign's inquiries concerning the agency's investigations into the campaign's activities, the court noted that plaintiffs had "failed to make even a preliminary showing of bad faith and accordingly are not entitled to discovery into the FEC's motives and activities."

With regard to alleged discriminatory enforcement of the election law, the court held that "plaintiffs have not alleged facts demonstrating unequal treatment under the Act."

Similarly, the court found no merit to plaintiffs' claim that their First Amendment rights had been abridged. The court concluded that "to the extent that the Commission's investigation has 'chilled' any volunteer activities on the part of contributors...that chill does not under the circumstances rise to a constitutional claim."

Appeals court's ruling

On October 28, 1986, the defendant filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit. The FEC filed a motion to dismiss the appeal on November 12, 1986. The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's ruling on March 3, 1987 (Civil Action No. 86-6229).

Source:   FEC RecordOctober 1987; October 1986. Spannaus v. FEC, 641 F. Supp. 1520 (S.D.N.Y. 1986), aff'd mem., 816 F.2d 670 (2d Cir. 1987).