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1989-23: Use of Public Funds for Educational Literature Distributed At Fundraising Events and Other Events

Thursday, June 08, 1989

An advisory opinion has been requested on the following questions:

1) If a campaign has printed literature for the purpose of distributing to potential voters, but some of the literature is distributed at fundraising events, may the cost of that part of the literature which is distributed at the fundraising events be paid for with public funds?

2) If a motor vehicle is used by a campaign for both educational and other purposes, will the Board accept a reasonable allocation of the cost of renting or purchasing the vehicle for the various purposes and may public funds be used for the costs attributed to the vehicle when used for educational purposes?

Section 3-704(1) of the New York City Administrative Code permits the use of public funds "only for services, material, facilities or other things of value used to educate the public as to the candidates and issues" of an election. These uses include "expenditures associated with advertising, communication with potential voters, and voter registration drives..." The Board is authorized to determine which, if any, other expenditures "serve the function of educating the public" and thus qualify for the use of public funds.

1) Public funds may be used for the printing and distribution of literature to educate potential voters about the candidates and issues in an election. The fact that educational literature is also distributed at a fundraising event does not change its educational purpose, and public funds may be used to pay for the literature. Expenditures of public funds are subject to the expenditure limit and do not fall within the fundraising allowance of Administrative Code §3-706(5) (b). If the literature is also used for the purpose of soliciting funds, however, the Board would accept a reasonable allocation made by the candidate allocating the costs wholly to fall within the fundraising allowance, or instead allocating the costs wholly to expenditures which qualify for the use of public funds pursuant to Section 3-704. The allocation should be made according to the primary purpose of the literature. Alternatively, the candidate may reasonably apportion these costs between the fundraising allowance and expenditures which qualify for the use of public funds.

2) As was stated in Advisory Opinion No. 1989-13, dated March 23, 1989:

The rental or purchase of motor vehicles may be an expense of educating the public. Thus, public funds may be used to pay these costs only if the vehicles are used primarily for the purpose of advertising the candidacy or communication with potential voters (e.g., the vehicles are sound trucks or are used for voter registration drives).

If the vehicle is used for other purposes, the candidate may reasonably apportion the costs associated with the vehicle, including the cost of purchase or rental, between those expenses which clearly relate to educating the public (e.g., fuel for sound trucks) and those which do not. Public funds may only be used for that portion of vehicle costs for which the candidate is able to demonstrate a clear relationship to an educational purpose.