A smaller text A normal text A larger text

1989-29: Guidance on the Use of Public Funds for Certain Purposes

Wednesday, July 12, 1989

An advisory opinion has been requested whether public funds may be used for any of the following purposes:

1) A poll.

2) Defending or challenging petitions.

3) Printing invitations for an event, the purpose of which is for the candidate to discuss his/her positions on issues but at which a solicitation for contributions will also be made.

4) Purchasing voter lists to be used to create lists for the purpose of contacting voters for other than fundraising purposes.

5) Purchasing maps and reverse telephone directories for contacting voters for other than fundraising purposes.

6) To pay the fees and expenses of consultants (who are not on the payroll of the campaign) who develop the programs for the computers which, in turn, are used to develop lists and other information to contact voters for other than fundraising 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) While a poll may involve "communication with potential voters," its main purpose is to solicit the opinions of the persons polled, not to educate the public as to candidates or issues. A poll therefore is not an expenditure which qualifies for the use of public funds.

2) Section 3-704(2) (i) of the Administrative Code specifically prohibits the use of public funds for challenging or defending designating and nominating petitions.

3) The printing of invitations is not an expense for which public funds may be used, unless the invitations are designed to educate the public by including information about candidates or election issues.

4, 5) The purchase of voter lists, maps, and reverse telephone directories are expenses which may qualify for the use of public funds. The candidate has the burden of demonstrating to the Board that these purchases were made for the purpose of identifying potential voters who subsequently receive educational information about the candidate or election issues from the candidate's campaign. Campaign Finance Board Rule 102(d).

6) The Campaign Finance Act does not prohibit the use of public funds to pay the fees and expenses of consultants. But see Administrative Code §3-704(2) (h) (prohibiting the use of public funds for "any direct payment of a salary or wage for any individual"). Public funds may therefore be used for computer consultant fees and expenses associated with the development of computer programs which are used to identify potential voters who subsequently receive educational information about the candidate or election issues from the candidate's campaign. The candidate has the burden of demonstrating the connection between the consultant cost and the educational purpose. Rule 102(d).

 

NEW YORK CITY CAMPAIGN FINANCE BOARD