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1989-11: Expenditure Limits for Prospective Candidates

Thursday, March 23, 1989

An opinion has been requested whether a candidate's use of his or her home and home telephone for campaign purposes constitute a contribution and expenditure subject to the limits of the New York City Campaign Finance Act. The following example has been described: there is only one telephone in the candidate's residence; the telephone is listed in the name of the candidate, not that of his or her authorized committee; the telephone has been at the residence since before the campaign for office began and will remain after the campaign has concluded; during the campaign, the telephone is used for both personal and campaign-related calls; the authorized committee does not reimburse the candidate for the use of the residential premises, electricity, heat, air conditioning, or telephone.

Administrative Code §3-703(l) (h) provides that participating candidates may not make use of their own personal funds or property for their campaigns for office except as contributions which do not exceed the applicable contribution limit. Certain uses of real and personal property are exempt from the definition of "contribution", including:

the use of real or personal property and the cost of invitations, food and beverages voluntarily provided by an individual to a candidate or political committee on the individual's residential premises for candidate-related activities to the extent such services do not exceed five hundred dollars in value...

Administrative Code §3-702(8) (ii). This exception parallels an exception to the definition of a contribution set forth in New York Election Law §14-100(9) (B).

Use of Candidate's Home

The value of the candidate's residential premises, and the electricity, heat, and air conditioning for those premises, are not contributions or expenditures by the candidate, even if the residence is used for campaign purposes.

Use of Candidate's Home Telephone

The use of the candidate's home telephone for campaign-related activities is a contribution to the extent that the total of candidate payments for this use and other campaign-related activities in the candidate's home exceeds $500 in an election. The Board would accept a reasonable attribution of portions of the telephone charges to campaign and to non-campaign uses. For example, the cost of the campaign use may be determined by a comparison of the candidate's telephone bills prior to and after the beginning of his or her campaign activity. Alternatively, if the bill lists a separate charge for each telephone call, the cost for campaign-related calls may be totaled separately from the cost of non-campaign-related calls.