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1990-5: Treatment of Reductions in Charges for Photocopies as a Contribution

Wednesday, June 13, 1990

An opinion has been requested whether a bank makes a contribution to a candidate participating in the New York City Campaign Finance Program if it reduces its charges for providing photocopied checks and deposit slips because of the large volume of copies provided to the candidate.

Under the New York City Campaign Finance Act, a "contribution" ordinarily includes the provision of goods or services at less than fair market value. NYC Administrative Code §3-702(8); Campaign Finance Board Rules 101(w), 106. If it is commercially reasonable to give discounts for large volume transactions, however, the provision of these services would not be at less than fair market value. The question, therefore, turns on whether the bank would provide the same photocopying discount, based on volume, for non-candidate customers in the ordinary course of business1. A discount made solely pursuant to a bank policy for large volume photocopying services, regardless of the customer's status as a candidate for office, would not be a contribution to the candidate under the New York City Campaign Finance Act2.

NEW YORK CITY CAMPAIGN FINANCE BOARD

1 Cf., e.g., Federal Election Commission Advisory Opinions 1989-14 (August 18, 1989) (restaurant providing low-cost meal option for political and non-political gatherings); 1987-24 (September 10, 1987) (hotel providing complimentary items to candidate and non-candidate guests); 1986-22 (July 24, 1986) (television station providing rebate for political and non-political advertisers). In each instance, the FEC advised that the item or service provided was not a contribution because it was made available at the "usual and normal charges offered to the vendor's non-political customers."

2 The question whether the photocopying discount would be a contribution under Article 14 of the New York Election Law is a subject beyond the scope of this advisory opinion.