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IN RE FEDERAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN ACT LITIG.

June 15, 1979

In re Federal Election Campaign Act Litigation.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHEY

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff and defendant have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. In addition, the defendant has moved for an amendment to this Court' s Order of April 17, 1979, 468 F. Supp. 1235 (D.D.C.1979), which would permit an interlocutory appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b). Because there are no material facts in dispute, an award of summary judgment is proper and here, in light of the patent deficiencies in plaintiff's complaints to the Federal Election Commission ("FEC" or "The Commission"), judgment must be awarded to the defendant. Of course, a finding for the Commission on summary judgment requires the denial of its request for an interlocutory appeal.

 The Court's memorandum opinion of April 17, 1979, 468 F. Supp. 1235 (D.D.C.1979) provides a complete statement of the relevant facts and thus, they need not be repeated here. The gravamen of Mr. Walther's claim is that because certain political action committees are subject to the same control, under 2 U.S.C. § 441a(a)(5), they should be regarded as One political committee for the purposes of the $ 5,000 contribution limitation imposed by 2 U.S.C. § 441a(a) (2). In denying the FEC's motion to dismiss, the Court explained that in order to resolve this case, it must determine whether the FEC acted contrary to law in dismissing the 45 complaints which Mr. Walther filed pursuant to 2 U.S.C. § 437g(a)(1). A review of both those complaints and the other information available to the Commission indicates that the FEC acted well within its discretion in declining to investigate the allegations of wrongdoing.

 I. THE COMMISSION'S FAILURE TO INVESTIGATE THE COMPLAINTS WAS NOT CONTRARY TO LAW

 A. The Standard of Review

 
(2) The Commission, upon receiving a complaint under (2 U.S.C. § 437g(a)(1)), and if it has reason to believe that any person has committed a violation of this Act or of chapter 95 or chapter 96 of Title 26, or, if the Commission, on the basis of information ascertained in the normal course of carrying out its supervisory responsibilities, has reason to believe that such a violation has occurred, shall notify the person involved of such alleged violation and shall make an investigation of such alleged violation in accordance with the provisions of this section.

 A determination of the correct standard of review is a necessary prerequisite to evaluating the propriety of the Commission's decision. In resolving this matter, the Court faces two questions: (1) what information must the Commission, and now the Court, take into account in deciding whether or not to investigate; and (2) what standard governs judicial review of Commission activity.

 With respect to the first question, it seems clear that the Commission must take into consideration all available information concerning the alleged wrongdoing. In other words, the Commission may not rely solely on the facts presented by the sworn complaint when deciding whether to investigate. Although the facts provided in a sworn complaint may be insufficient, when coupled with other information available to the Commission gathered either through similar sworn complaints or through its own work the facts may merit a complete investigation. By the same turn, a persuasive and strong complaint may not merit an investigation because the Commission possesses reliable evidence indicating that no violation has occurred. Thus, it is clear that a consideration of all available material is vital to a rational review of Commission decisions. In addition, section 437g(a)(2) envisions this broad examination of all evidence available to the Commission. Its language provides that the Commission must investigate a sworn complaint "if it has reason to believe that any person has committed a violation" of the election laws; the statute's reference to the Commission's "belief" calls for the Commission to exercise its informed discretion. This discretion must be based on all the information which the FEC possesses, including the individual sworn complaint, other sworn complaints, and facts which the FEC has ascertained in the normal course of carrying out its supervisory responsibilities.

 With respect to the second question, it seems equally clear that the Court must test the Commission's decision according to the standard commonly applied to judicial review of administrative decisions. This standard requires the reversal of agency action which is either arbitrary or capricious. The sensitive nature of the Commission's decision certainly calls for judicial deference to the expertise of the agency which Congress has empowered to enforce the election laws. By reversing only those decisions which are arbitrary or capricious, the Court provides this deference.

 Thus, the question raised by Mr. Walther's suit against the FEC is whether, in light of all the evidence available to the Commission, the decision not to investigate was arbitrary or capricious. A review of the undisputed facts of this case indicates that the decision was eminently reasonable.

 B. The Commission's Decision

 Indeed, the complaints submitted by Mr. Walther are a shambles. *fn1" He not only refers the Commission to the wrong statute in describing the alleged violation, *fn2" but he also fails to allege all of the elements necessary to constitute a violation. *fn3" In particular, Mr. Walther has not stated that any of the candidates or their committees Knowingly accepted donations from separate political action committees which were subject to the same control. Moreover, he has not presented the slightest evidence that the accused parties possessed knowledge of the illicit control. His silence on this critical point is, by itself, sufficient reason not to investigate the allegation. In addition, although Mr. Walther provided the Commission with the names of the political committees which he asserted were subject to the same control, many of these committees have absolutely no connection with the labor groups that are supposedly exercising illegal control. Finally, even when the complaints state a valid charge, they do so only in the most conclusory fashion. Mr. Walther offers not a scintilla of evidence to ...


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