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FEC v. CHRISTIAN COALITION

May 13, 1997

FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CHRISTIAN COALITION, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GREEN

 Presently pending is Defendant Christian Coalition's Motion for Partial Dismissal ("Motion to Dismiss"). *fn1" Upon consideration of the Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff Federal Election Commission's (the "FEC" or "Commission") opposition, the Christian Coalition's reply and the entire record in this matter, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

 I. Background

 On July 30, 1996, the FEC filed its Complaint alleging that the Christian Coalition had engaged in a pattern of activity to influence the election of candidates for federal office. *fn2" In particular, the FEC alleges that the Christian Coalition, directly and through its state affiliates, made expenditures of corporate treasury funds to produce and distribute voter guides, "scorecards" and direct mail, and to engage in voter identification, "get-out-the-vote" and other public communication efforts, all in support of or in opposition to various federal candidates and political committees.

 The FEC was notified of the Christian Coalition's activities when, on February 27, 1992, the Democratic Party of Virginia filed an administrative complaint averring that the Christian Coalition had violated the Federal Election Campaign Act, 2 U.S.C. §§ 431 et seq. (the "FECA" or the "Act"). Complaint P6. The FEC then initiated the procedures of the FECA, 2 U.S.C. § 437g(a)(1), including notification to the Christian Coalition of the allegations. Id. On September 15, 1992, the FEC, by the affirmative votes of at least four of its members, found reason to believe that the Christian Coalition had violated the Act and authorized the initiation of an investigation. Id. P8.

 On October 21, 1992, a second administrative complaint alleging that the Christian Coalition had violated the Act was filed with the FEC. Id. P9. This complaint was filed by the Democratic National Committee. Again, pursuant to the procedures of the FECA, the FEC notified the Christian Coalition of the allegations and provided it with a copy of the administrative complaint, to which the Christian Coalition responded on January 4, 1993. Id. On July 20, 1993, the FEC merged the two administrative complaints, found reason to believe that the Christian Coalition had violated the Act, and authorized an investigation. Id. P10. *fn3"

 On September 26, 1995, the FEC found probable cause to believe that the Christian Coalition had violated the Act. Id. P15. After attempts at informal conciliation failed, the FEC was authorized by its Commissioners, on May 7, 1996, to file suit. Id. P16. The instant Complaint was filed shortly thereafter.

 The FEC's Complaint contains three causes of action. The first cause of action relates to the Christian Coalition's "in-kind" contributions to candidates and campaigns for federal office during the 1990, 1992 and 1994 federal election cycles in violation of 2 U.S.C. § 441b. Id. P24. The FEC contends that the Christian Coalition coordinated these expenditures ("in kind" contributions) with (1) the Bush-Quayle '92 primary and general election committees, id. PP25-26; (2) the Helms for Senate Committee for the 1990 election, id. PP28-30; (3) the Oliver North for U.S. Senate Committee for the 1994 election, id. PP31-33; (4) the Inglis for Congress Committee, id. PP34-36; and (5) the J.D. Hayworth for Congress Committee for the 1994 election, id. PP37-39.

 The third cause of action contends that during the 1992 and 1994 election cycles, the Christian Coalition made a series of expenditures for public communications that expressly advocated the election or defeat of various candidates for the United States Congress. Id. P P44-50. This cause of action contains three principal allegations. First, the FEC states that the Christian Coalition, through its subordinate state affiliates, made expenditures to support a conference at which Dr. Ralph Reed (who was at that time the defendant's Executive Director) expressly advocated the defeat of U.S. Representative Pat Williams. Id. P46. Second, the plaintiff alleges that the defendant made expenditures to prepare and distribute a direct mail package with a "scorecard," which included a cover letter signed by Pat Robertson stating, "This SCORECARD will give America's Christian voters the facts they will need to distinguish between GOOD and MISGUIDED Congressmen." Id. P48. And third, the FEC avers that, prior to the July 9, 1994, primary election in Georgia, the Christian Coalition made expenditures to prepare and distribute a cover letter and congressional "scorecard," which advocated the re-election of Representative and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich: "The only incumbent Congressman who has a Primary election is Congressman Newt Gingrich - a Christian Coalition, Inc. 100 percenter." Id P50. The FEC further alleges that these expenditures were made in violation of 2 U.S.C. § 441b, and that the Christian Coalition also violated the law by failing to report these expenditures under 2 U.S.C. § 434(c).

 Approximately three months into discovery, the defendant filed the instant Motion to Dismiss seeking partial dismissal of the Complaint.

 II. Discussion

 The Christian Coalition seeks to dismiss that portion of the first cause of action that relates to activities in support of Helms for Senate during the 1990 general election and that portion of the second cause of action in support of various candidates for the U.S. Senate during the 1990 general election. See Motion to Dismiss at 1. As grounds, the defendant contends that the FEC is time-barred from pursuing action based on events that occurred more than five years prior to the filing of the Complaint. Two principal issues must be addressed to resolve the Motion to Dismiss: (1) whether a discovery rule applies to the statute of limitations applicable to this suit under the FECA, tolling the provisions of the statute of limitations until the FEC knew or should have known of the underlying violations; and (2) whether the applicable statute of limitations bars the FEC from obtaining both legal and equitable relief.

 The FECA does not contain an internal statute of limitations. The applicable statute of limitations is provided under 28 U.S.C. § 2462 *fn4" --a point the parties do not, nor could they, reasonably dispute. See FEC v. Williams, 104 F.3d 237, 240 (9th Cir. 1996), pet. for reh'g and suggestion for reh'g en banc filed on other grounds, No. 95-55320 (Feb. 5, 1997); FEC v. National Right to Work Comm., 916 F. Supp. 10, 13 (D.D.C. 1996); FEC v. National Republic Senatorial Comm., 877 F. Supp. 15, 17 (D.D.C. 1995). See generally 3 M Co. (Minnesota Mining and Mfg.) v. Browner, 305 U.S. App. D.C. 100, 17 F.3d 1453, 1455-57 (D.C. Cir. 1994), reh'g and suggestion for reh'g en banc denied, No. 92-1126 (May 9, 1994). They do, however, contest whether the statute of limitations was ...


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