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1991-8: Re-Run Primary Election Contribution Limit

Thursday, October 31, 1991

On October 16, 1991, the Appellate Division, Second Department, reversed the order of re-run Democratic primary elections in Council districts 30 and 40. In Advisory Opinion No. 1991-7 (October 9, 1991) the Board discussed, inter alia, the contribution limit that applies to candidates participating in the New York City Campaign Finance Program in a court ordered re-run primary election. This advisory opinion discusses how the Campaign Finance Act's contribution limit will be applied when a court ordered re-run primary election has been canceled1.

New York City Administrative Code §3-703(1) (f) provides that in an "election held pursuant to a court order" participating candidates "may accept additional contributions which do not exceed one half the amount" of the contribution applicable in the primary and general election held that year. (Emphasis added.) 2 Thus, for City Council candidates on the ballot in a court ordered re-run election that is held, the contribution limit is increased by $1,500, to a total of $4,500 for all elections held in 1991. See Advisory Opinion No. 1991-7. The Act does not explicitly provide for an increase in the $3,000 contribution limit if a re-run primary election is ordered, but not held because that court order is reversed on appeal.

Clearly, participating candidates on the ballot in a court ordered re-run primary election may have raised additional contributions of up to $4,500 per single source to pay expenses incurred for a re-run primary election prior to the reversal of the court order and in reliance on Advisory Opinion No. 1991-73. It would be inequitable to penalize participating candidates for accepting these contributions for this purpose.

Therefore, if a participating candidate demonstrates that the use of that portion of contributions accepted from a single source, which exceeds $3,000 but not $4,500, may be reasonably attributed to expenses incurred for a court ordered re-run primary election that has been canceled, the acceptance of that amount will not be treated as a violation of the Act's contribution limit. This advisory opinion applies only to candidates who would have appeared on the ballot in a court ordered re-run primary election that has been canceled.

NEW YORK CITY CAMPAIGN FINANCE BOARD

1 All candidates must also abide by the contribution limits set forth in New York Election Law Article 14. See Administrative Code §§3-703(1) (f); 3-714; Campaign Finance Board Rule 1-04(o). Where State law contribution limits are lower than those contained in the Campaign Finance Act, the State law contribution limits apply.

2 The Act's allowance for the acceptance of additional contributions for a court ordered election has no bearing on whether the participating candidate violated the contribution limit in effect prior to the court order.

3 Expenses incurred for a court ordered re-run primary election before its cancellation are subject to a separate expenditure limit. See Campaign Finance Board Rule 1-08(c) (2) (C),(D) now Rule 1-08(c) (2) (iii), (iv).