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COMMON CAUSE v. DEMOCRATIC NATL. COMM.

August 23, 1971

COMMON CAUSE et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE et al., Defendants


Parker, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: PARKER

PARKER, District Judge.

 Section 608 of Title 18, United States Code, *fn1" prescribes limits for individual contributions and purchases in support of campaigns for elective Federal office. Section 609 *fn2" of that Title establishes permissible limits to annual receipts and expenditures by political committees. *fn3" Both Sections provide penalties of a fine, imprisonment, or both, for violations.

 The plaintiffs in this proceeding include Common Cause, a nonprofit, nonpartisan District of Columbia corporation whose announced concern is the promotion of social welfare, civic betterment and social improvement in the United States, with a particular interest in the integrity of the elective process; John W. Gardner, Chairman of Common Cause, and a resident and registered voter in the State of Maryland; Jonathan B. Bingham, Democrat-New York, and Gilbert Gude, Republican-Maryland, present members of the United States House of Representatives who assert their intention to seek reelection in 1972 to the 93rd Congress.

 These plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief against the Democratic National Committee, the Republican National Committee, and the Conservative Party to protect, under these statutes, their alleged private beneficial interests as citizens, voters, campaign contributors and workers, and candidates for elective Federal office.

 They contend that the defendants consistently and continually employ and conspire with other parties to use, with impunity, various devices designed to circumvent illegally §§ 608 and 609. They allege that the failure and apparent inability and unwillingness of the Justice Department to prosecute any of these alleged violations during the more than 30-year existence of the statutes makes a mockery of "the prophylactic purposes of these laws which were designed to prevent disparity in contributed financial resources from being a major factor in elections for elective Federal office and to prevent contributors of large amounts from exercising undue influence on the actions of elected Federal officials." *fn4"

 The immediate issues before the Court are presented by the defendants' motions to dismiss. They assert that the complaint fails to state a cause of action; lack of jurisdiction of the subject matter; lack of standing of the plaintiffs to sue; lack of justiciability; lack of an actual case or controversy; and, the absence of irreparable injury. They oppose the motion for designation of the proceedings as a class action.

 The Court concludes that the motions to dismiss the complaint should be denied as to Common Cause, John W. Gardner and the designated members of Common Cause; and granted, without prejudice, as to Congressmen Bingham and Gude. Further, the Court concludes that the motion for a class action should be denied as to all except the designated members of Common Cause.

 JURISDICTION

 This Court has jurisdiction to consider such equitable actions as this *fn5" pursuant to former Section 521 of Title 11 of the District of Columbia Code, 1967 Edition. That Code provision gives general equity jurisdiction and venue to this Court where either party is resident or found within the District of Columbia. *fn6"

 The assertion of the Republican National Committee that jurisdiction is lacking because of a failure to state a cause of action is misplaced. "Whether the complaint states a cause of action on which relief could be granted * * * must be decided after and not before the court has assumed jurisdiction over the controversy. * * *" Bell et al. v. Hood et al., 327 U.S. 678, 682, 683, 66 S. Ct. 773, 776, 90 L. Ed. 939 (1946). Exceptions to that rule -- when the claim is wholly insubstantial and frivolous or is clearly immaterial and made solely for the purpose of obtaining jurisdiction -- are questionably jurisdictional and, in any event, inapplicable here.

 And although the jurisdiction conferred by the District of Columbia Code makes it unnecessary to rely on 28 U.S.C. § 1331(a), it is clear that the underlying economic basis of the complaint -- contributions in excess of $5,000 per person and expenditures in excess of $3,000,000 -- far exceeds the $10,000 necessary to satisfy the jurisdictional requirement of the federal statute. *fn7"


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