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District court denies preliminary injunction in McCutcheon, et al. v. FEC (D.D.C. 20-2485) – FEC.gov

On October 19, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (the court) issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order denying Shaun McCutcheon and McCutcheon for Freedom’s (plaintiffs) motion for a preliminary injunction.

Background

Plaintiffs filed an advisory opinion request (AOR) with the Commission. The request asked whether $50,000 in personal funds that McCutcheon had provided to McCutcheon for Freedom, his authorized candidate committee, in his unsuccessful campaign for the Libertarian Party’s nomination for president could lawfully be transferred to the general, unrestricted federal account of the Libertarian National Committee, Inc. The AOR also asked whether McCutcheon, as a former candidate, could now provide an unlimited amount of personal funds to his candidate committee and thereafter transfer those funds to the federal accounts of the Libertarian National Committee, Inc. or the Republican National Committee. Plaintiffs allege that the FEC failed to issue an advisory opinion within 60 days, as required by the Federal Election Campaign Act.

On September 4, 2020, plaintiffs filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia accompanied by a motion for a preliminary injunction. Plaintiffs sought an injunction to prohibit the FEC from commencing any administrative proceedings, voting in favor of any administrative complaint, conducting any investigation, imposing any civil fines or other sanction, or making any criminal referral against plaintiffs with respect to the proposed actions in their AOR.

District court decision

The court concluded that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that they were likely to succeed on the merits of their substantive claims and denied their motion for a preliminary injunction. The court stated that fundamental to its conclusion “is the plain fact that the FEC’s conduct in processing and disposing of plaintiffs’ advisory opinion request was not only legal, it was statutorily mandated. Accordingly, to the concrete question of whether the FEC violated plaintiffs’ rights—whether statutory or constitutional—by failing to issue a favorable advisory opinion, the answer is a firm no, and no suit based on such an allegation can possibly succeed.”

Finally, the court briefly discussed why the other preliminary injunction factors were not satisfied.

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