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1993-12: Contribution Limits for a Participating Candidate Who Was Initially a Non-Participating Candidate

Thursday, December 16, 1993

The Board has determined to issue an advisory opinion to clarify when the contribution limits of New York City Administrative Code §3-703(1) (f) are applicable to certain political committees authorized by candidates who join the New York City Campaign Finance Program. This opinion addresses the following hypothetical circumstances:

A candidate authorizes a political committee either before or after his or her 1993 election. The committee does not raise or spend funds for the 1993 election. Rather, the committee raises funds that are used after the 1993 election for purposes such as: buying tickets for political events; making donations to community organizations; making contributions or loans to other candidates or political committees; paying expenses related to holding public office. This committee will be referred to as the "post-election committee".

Subsequently, the candidate authorizes a separate political committee to raise and spend funds for the 1997 election, which is the next election in which he or she is a candidate. The candidate joins the New York City Campaign Finance Program for the 1997 election1.

The contribution limits of the New York City Campaign Finance Act do not differentiate between contributions made to a political committee that raises and spends funds between elections and other political committees that raise and spend funds as the election approaches. The contributions and loans the post-election committee accepts and the expenditures it makes on and after January 12, 1994 are presumed to be for the 1997 election. Campaign Finance Board Rules 1-04(f); 1-05(h); 1-08(c). Thus, the contribution limits of Administrative Code §3-703(1) (f) for the 1997 elections apply to the funds raised by the post-election committee, unless the candidate demonstrates that the post-election committee did not, at any time, accept contributions, loans, or other receipts, or make expenditures, for the 1997 election. See Rule 1-02, defining "authorized committee"2.

In the circumstances described, this presumption would be difficult to overcome. The funds the post-election committee raised and spent in this hypothetical situation are not for an election to a State, party, or other office that is not subject to the Campaign Finance Act. See Administrative Code §3-7123. Because political committees, by definition, are entities that "aid or take part in the election of candidates" it would be very difficult for the candidate to maintain that the post-election committee's expenditures bear no relation to any election. Administrative Code §3-702(11). Moreover, it is apparent that expenditures made for the purposes described above would tend to promote or facilitate the election of the candidate in 1997, regardless whether they also serve other objectives4.

NEW YORK CITY CAMPAIGN FINANCE BOARD

1 For purposes of this opinion, it is not relevant whether the post-election committee is terminated at any time.

2 If this demonstration is made, the post-election committee would not be required to file Campaign Finance Board disclosure statements for the 1997 election. See Administrative Code §3-703(8); Rules 3-02(f) (5); 3-03(c) (3) (ii). With respect to spending limits, if this demonstration is not made the 1997 election spending limits would first be applicable to expenditures made by the post-election committee on or after January 1, 1996. See Administrative Code §3-706(1), (2); but see §3-706(5) (authorizing the Board to adopt a regulation providing for spending limits in the first two years of the four year election cycle).

3 This opinion does not address the circumstances in which funds raised and spent to "explore" the candidate's prospects in an election, in which he or she ultimately does not run, would be exempt from Campaign Finance Program limitations and requirements pursuant to Administrative Code §3-712. Cf. Advisory Opinion No. 1993-7 (July 20, 1993).

4 On the other hand, the Board has recognized that a political committee would not be subject to Campaign Finance Act limitations and requirements when its sole function is to make reasonable and timely expenditures for purposes of transition into public office and the funding of such activities is conducted in a manner that assures there is no connection with a past or future election. Advisory Opinions Nos. 1989-57 (December 19, 1989); 1992-1 (January 21, 1992); see also Advisory Opinion No. 1989-55 (December 5, 1989).