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FEC v. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Comm., 454 U.S. 27 (1981)

FEC v. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

No. 80-939

Argued October 6, 1981

Decided November 10, 1981*

454 U.S. 27


One provision of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (Act), 2 U.S.C. § 441a(d)(3), limits the amount that the national committee and state committees of a political party may spend in connection with the general election of a candidate for the United States Senate or House of Representatives. Petitioner National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) is a political committee organized to support Republican candidates for the Senate. Although the Act authorizes the NRSC to contribute up to a certain amount to such candidates, it is not authorized to make expenditures on their behalf. The Federal Election Commission (FEC), however, has permitted the NRSC to act as agent of national and state party committees in making expenditures on their behalf. When certain state Republican Party committees designated the NRSC as their agent for § 441a(d)(3) expenditure purposes, the respondent Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee filed a complaint with the FEC, asserting that the NRSC's agreements with the state committees were contrary to § 441a(d)(3). The FEC dismissed the complaint, concluding that there was "no reason to believe" that the agreements violated the Act. On review, the District Court granted the FEC's motion for summary judgment, holding that the FEC's decision was not "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law." The Court of Appeals reversed on the ground that the "plain language" of § 441a(d)(3) precluded the agency agreements between state committees and the NRSC.

Held: Section 441a(d)(3) does not expressly or by necessary implication foreclose the use of agency agreements, such as are at issue here, and the FEC thus acted within the authority vested in it by Congress when it determined to permit such agreements. Pp. 454 U. S. 31-43.

(a) While 441a(d)(3) does not authorize the NRSC to make expenditures in its own right, it does not follow that it may not act as agent of a

Page 454 U. S. 28

committee that is expressly authorized to make expenditures. Nothing in the statute suggests that a state committee may not designate another committee to be its alter ego and to act in its behalf for the purposes of § 441a(d)(3). Nor does the legislative history of the Act purport to disapprove agency arrangements. Pp. 454 U. S. 31-36.

(b) Under the standard of whether the FEC's construction of the Act was "sufficiently reasonable" to be accepted by a reviewing court, the District Court was correct in accepting the FEC's judgment. The FEC's view that the agency agreements were logically consistent with § 441a(a)(4) -- which authorizes the transfer of funds among national, state, and local committees of the same party -- is acceptable. And the FEC's interpretation of § 441a(d)(3) is not inconsistent with any discernible purpose of the Act. Pp. 454 U. S. 36-42.

212 U.S.App.D.C. 374, 660 F.2d 773, reversed.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. STEVENS, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 454 U. S. 43.

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