United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION RE DOCUMENT NOS. 20, 21, 23, 24,
33, 35, 41, 42, 47, 50
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Defendants' Motions to Dismiss; Denying as Moot
Plaintiff's Motion for Substituted
Service on Defendant Imran Awan; Denying As Moot
Plaintiff's “Request for Oral
Argument on Opposition to Podesta et al. Defendant's
Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint”;
Denying As Moot Plaintiff's Motion for
Substituted Service on Defendant Anthony Weiner; and
Denying As Moot Plaintiff's Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment for Defendant Glenn Simpson
se plaintiff George Webb Sweigert brings this putative
class action against a host of individuals and entities
purportedly associated with the Democratic National
Party-including Haseeb Rana, the Democratic National
Committee (“the DNC”),  John Podesta, the Podesta
Group, Kim Fritts, Deborah Wasserman Schultz, Huma Abedin,
and Imran Awan-in connection with alleged actions taken
by Defendants during the Democratic primaries to the 2016
U.S. Presidential election. See generally Compl.,
ECF No. 1; see Id. ¶¶ 4-19. In particular,
Mr. Sweigert, an alleged supporter of Bernie Sanders, asserts
that Defendants committed fraud and breach of fiduciary duty
by, among other things, executing an undisclosed funding
agreement with a not-for-profit associated with the Hillary
Clinton campaign and by conducting a website-hacking
conspiracy to promote Hillary Clinton's candidacy and to
diminish the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. See Id.
¶ 42-43, 52. Defendants Haseeb Rana, the DNC, the
Podesta Group, Deborah Wasserman Schultz, Huma Abedin, and
Imran Awan each move to dismiss the complaint pursuant to
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).
reasons set forth below, the Court grants Defendants'
motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 12(h)(3),
this order applies to all Defendants, not just those who have
responded, because no named Defendant bears a causal relation
to Mr. Sweigert's alleged injury in fact. And the Court
denies as moot four motions filed by Mr. Sweigert, one asking
the Court to direct the United States Marshal to serve a
Defendant who has now been served, a second requesting a
hearing on one of the now-resolved motions to dismiss, a
third requesting an order for substituted service on a
Defendant, and a fourth seeking summary judgment on claims
against one Defendant.
2016 Presidential election's Democratic primaries,
Hillary Clinton won the party's nomination over Bernie
Sanders and other candidates. Mr. Sweigert, an alleged
supporter of Bernie Sanders, claims that he contributed $30
to Bernie Sanders's Presidential campaign, donating through
ActBlue, a fundraising non-profit. Id. ¶ 2. Mr.
Sweigert alleges that Defendants orchestrated a hacking and
covert funding conspiracy designed to tip the Democratic
primaries in favor of Hillary Clinton. Id.
Mr. Sweigert alleges that the DNC unlawfully favored Hillary
Clinton in the Democratic primaries by signing a “Joint
Funding Agreement, ” or “pay-to-play”
scheme, without donors' knowledge, amounting to fraud.
See Id. ¶¶ 47, 60. According to Mr.
Sweigert's complaint, “[t]he DNC is the formal
governing body for the United States Democratic party.”
Id. ¶ 21. Its role is to “coordinat[e]
strategy in support of Democratic Party candidates for local,
state, and national” elections. Id. With
respect to the Presidential election, “the DNC
organizes the Democratic National Convention” in order
to “nominate and confirm a candidate for
President.” Id. ¶ 22. At the time of the
2016 Democratic primaries, Deborah Wasserman Schultz, a
member of the U.S. House of Representatives, served as the
DNC's chairperson. Id. ¶ 23. In its
charters and bylaws, Mr. Sweigert alleges, the DNC obliged
itself to “financial fidelity and impartiality.”
Id. ¶ 24.
claims that in August 2015, the DNC executed an agreement
with Hillary for America, a not-for-profit affiliated with
the Clinton campaign, wherein the DNC ceded “financial
control and substantial management oversight[, ] including
selection and approval of personnel[, ] to Hillary For
America.” Id. ¶ 27. Plaintiff alleges
that the DNC never voluntarily disclosed this alleged
agreement. Id. ¶ 47. Consequently, Plaintiff
claims, donors continued to contribute without knowing that
Hillary for America had “financial control and
management right of refusal . . . over the DNC.”
from the alleged funding agreement, Plaintiff claims that
some of the Defendants conspired to orchestrate and, in fact,
orchestrated a number of hacking operations against the DNC.
See generally Id. ¶¶ 30, 43-65. In
particular, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Glen Simpson
(who is the CEO of Fusion GPS) and Imran Awan conspired to
hire professional hackers to penetrate the DNC's computer
network. Id. ¶¶ 30, 46. Plaintiff further
alleges that Defendant Imran Awan “engineered a
sophisticated email phishing attack against Bernie Sanders
supporters” using a donation webpage that has a
confusingly similar URL to that of the official donation
site, and that Mr. Awan used the website to “rout[e]
donations intended for Progressive candidates to bank
accounts controlled by  Wasserman Schultz and/or Imran
Awan.” Id. ¶¶ 44-45. Furthermore,
according to Plaintiff, some of the Defendants hacked key
congressional communications and constituent management
systems, such as iConstituent and InterAmerica. Id.
¶ 56. Specifically, Mr. Sweigert alleges that Defendants
Deborah Wasserman Schultz, Imran Awan, Abid Awan, Hina Alvi,
Rao Abbas, Haseeb Rana, Jamal Awan, and Omar Awan were
involved in the hacking and that they accessed private
communications through DNC servers. Id. Plaintiff
further alleges that using this private information, ARMZ
Uranium Company, which Defendant Podesta Group created, sold
nuclear fuel and weapons to foreign countries, including
Saudi Arabia, to fund Hillary for America. Id.
¶¶ 46, 59. According to Mr. Sweigert, in the
process, Defendant Podesta Group acted as a foreign agent of
the Saudi Arabian government but never disclosed this fact to
the public. Id. ¶ 46. And Mr. Sweigert's
complaint alleges that during the period from February 2016
to October 2016, the Podesta Group illegally transferred this
information from iConstituent to Defendant Anthony
Weiner's laptops. Id. ¶ 60.
also claims that some Defendants were involved in an illicit
scheme involving individuals or entities in
Pakistan. Id. ¶ 61. According to Mr.
Sweigert, Defendant Imran Awan sent iPhones and iPads
intended only for congressional use to Pakistan. Id.
Mr. Sweigert further asserts that Defendants Imran Awan and
Omar Awan created fake employee profiles in a U.S. House of
Representatives Human Resources system. Id. ¶
62. Defendants Imran Awan and Hina Alvi then allegedly sent
payments from these fake employee profiles to individuals or
entities in Pakistan. Id. ¶ 63. Furthermore,
Mr. Sweigert alleges that Defendants Imran Awan, Hina Alvi,
and Rao Abbas participated in “information
bidding” in Pakistan, trading or selling electronic
devices that contained trade secrets belonging to the United
States. Id. ¶ 64.
on these allegations, Mr. Sweigert filed suit in this Court
claiming that Defendants committed fraud and breached
fiduciary duties owed to Plaintiff and to members of the
putative classes. Defendants Haseeb Rana, the DNC, the
Podesta Group, Deborah Wasserman Schultz, and Huma Abedin
move to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Defendants'
motions are now ripe for decision.
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) allows a defendant to move
to dismiss a complaint, or any portion thereof, for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Federal
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and the law
presumes that “a cause lies outside this limited
jurisdiction. . . .” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins.
Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994); see also Gen.
Motors Corp. v. EPA, 363 F.3d 442, 448 (D.C. Cir. 2004)
(“As a court of limited jurisdiction, we begin, and
end, with an examination of our jurisdiction.”). In
view of this presumption, the plaintiff bears the burden of
establishing that the court has subject matter jurisdiction.
Khadr v. United States, 529 F.3d 1112, 1115 (D.C.
Cir. 2008). No. action on behalf of either party can confer
subject matter jurisdiction on a federal court because
subject matter jurisdiction is both a statutory requirement
and an Article III constitutional requirement. See
Akinseye v. District of Columbia, 339 F.3d 970, 971
(D.C. Cir. 2003).
reviewing a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction under
Rule 12(b)(1), a court must review the complaint liberally,
granting the plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can
be derived from the facts alleged. Zaidan v. Trump,
317 F.Supp.3d 8, 16 (D.D.C. 2018) (quoting Barr v.
Clinton, 370 F.3d 1196, 1199 (D.C. Cir. 2004)). However,
“the Court need not accept factual inferences drawn by
plaintiffs if those inferences are not supported by facts
alleged in the complaint, nor must the Court accept
plaintiffs' legal conclusions.” Speelman v.
United States, 461 F.Supp.2d 71, 73 (D.D.C. 2006). A
court has “broad discretion to consider relevant and
competent evidence” to resolve factual issues raised by
a Rule 12(b)(1) motion. Finca Santa Elena, Inc. v. U.S.
Army Corps of Eng'rs, 873 F.Supp.2d 363, 368 (D.D.C.
2012) (citing 5B Charles Wright & Arthur Miller, Fed.
Prac. & Pro., Civil § 1350 (3d Ed. 2004)); see
also Al-Owhali v. Ashcroft, 279 F.Supp.2d 13, 21 (D.D.C.
2003) (explaining that consideration of documents outside of
pleadings does not convert a motion to dismiss under Rule
12(b)(1) into a motion for summary judgment).
D.C. Circuit has instructed that a motion to dismiss for lack
of standing constitutes a motion under Rule 12(b)(1) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure because “the defect of
standing is a defect in subject matter jurisdiction.”
Crow Creek Sioux Tribe v. Brownlee, 331 F.3d 912,
915-16 (D.C. Cir. 2003); Haase v. Sessions, 835 F.2d
902, 906 (D.C. Cir. 1987); see generally Valley Forge
Christian Coll. v. Ams. United for Separation of Church and
State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 475-76 (1982). Accordingly, a
lack of standing denotes a lack of subject matter
jurisdiction, which would support dismissal pursuant to Rule
Sweigert brings two claims against Defendants: one for fraud
and the other for breach of fiduciary duty. Compl.
¶¶ 42-65. Defendants Haseeb Rana, the DNC, the
Podesta Group, Deborah Wasserman Schultz, and Huma Abedin
argue, among other things, that this Court lacks subject
matter jurisdiction because Mr. Sweigert lacks standing to
pursue his claims. See Def. Rana's Mem. P&A
Supp. Mot. Dismiss Pl.'s Compl. 3-6, ECF No. 20
(“Def. Rana's Mem.”); Def. DNC's Mem.
P&A Supp. Mot. Dismiss Pl.'s Compl. 6-19, ECF No.
21-1 (“Def. DNC's Mem.”); Def. Podesta
Group's Mem. P&A Supp. Mot. Dismiss Pl.'s Compl.
7-10, ECF No. 23 (“Def. Podesta Group's
Mem.”); Def. Abedin's Mem. P&A Supp. Mot.
Dismiss Pl.'s Compl. 7, ECF No. 33 (“Def.
establish subject matter jurisdiction, a plaintiff must have
standing, as governed by Article III of the Constitution.
See U.S. Const. art. III, § 2. Plaintiffs bear
the burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction.
Vetcher v. Sessions, 316 F.Supp.3d 70, 75 (D.D.C.
2018) (citing Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504
U.S. 555, 561 (1992)). A party has standing to bring suit
under Article III of the Constitution only when she has
suffered an injury in fact-that is, an injury which is
concrete, particularized, and actual or imminent-which is
traceable to defendant's actions and redressable by the
relief sought. U.S. Const. art. III § 2, cl. 1;
Clapper v. Amnesty Int'l, USA, 568 U.S. 398
(2013); Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561; see also United
States v. Richardson, 418 U.S. 166, 176-77 (1974).
Allegations of a speculative or possible future injury do not
satisfy the requirements of Article III. See Whitmore ...