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  • FEC Record: Litigation

Court denies plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment in Ready for Ron v. FEC (1:22-cv-03282)

June 16, 2023

On May 17, 2023, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (the court) denied Ready for Ron's (plaintiff or RFR) motions for a preliminary injunction and partial summary judgment.


On October 27, 2022, plaintiff filed suit against the Commission, claiming that Advisory Opinion 2022-12 chills plaintiff's First Amendment rights by determining that plaintiff would violate the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act or FECA) and Commission regulations if it provides a signed petition with signatories' contact information to Governor Ron DeSantis either while he is testing the waters of a potential candidacy for President or after he declares his candidacy. Plaintiff contended that the Act does not limit transfers to a person who is not a candidate, and that RFR may act as a conduit to pass signatures and contact information from a petition’s signatories to the recipient. Plaintiff asked the court to prohibit the Commission from applying its “testing the waters” regulations to the petition and contact information, to declare those regulations void and unenforceable, and to vacate AO 2022-12.


The court stated that it agrees with the Commission that what plaintiff calls a petition is properly characterized as a valuable contact list and therefore an in-kind contribution subject to the Act’s contribution limits. The court further stated that it makes no difference whether the Governor has declared his candidacy, whether he is testing the waters, or whether he has done neither. If the Governor were to accept the list, he would be subject to the Act's limitations and prohibitions as either a candidate or an individual testing the waters, and for a court to declare otherwise would "invite massive evasion of campaign finance laws" allowing those seeking office to wait to declare candidacy until after they have assembled war chests of non-FECA-compliant funds.

The court noted that the contact list would fall within the Act’s definition of contribution, as a “gift … of money or anything of value made by any person for the purpose of influencing” a federal election and concluded that the plaintiff was not serving as a mere “conduit” for the contributions of others. Plaintiff did not dispute that it would like to provide this information to Governor DeSantis to influence the 2024 Presidential election. As the plaintiff spent in excess of $1 million to create the list, the Commission properly characterized the proposed transfer of the list as a contribution from the plaintiff.

The court also found that the Commission’s testing the waters regulation is an appropriate exercise of its statutory authority, and is properly viewed as exempting from Act’s disclosure requirements those who would otherwise meet the Act’s definition of “candidate.” Because Governor DeSantis’s receipt of the contact list would trigger candidate status, the court concluded that even if the testing the waters regulation were void FECA would nonetheless prohibit the plaintiff’s proposed conduct.

Finally, the court found that plaintiff failed to demonstrate AO 2022-12 violates the First Amendment, as the Commission could likely demonstrate that applying FECA’s contribution limits to RFR’s proposed activity furthers important government interests and is closely drawn to avoid unnecessary restrictions on plaintiff’s expressive activities.

Based upon the foregoing, the court denied the plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction and partial summary judgment.


  • Author 
    • Christopher Berg
    • Communications Specialist