An advisory opinion has been requested concerning whether candidates may use public funds disbursed by the Campaign Finance Board pursuant to the New York Campaign Finance Act (New York City Administrative Code §3-701, et seq.) for certain purposes. The following expenditures have been described:
1) Rent and utilities for campaign headquarters;
2) Rental or purchase of computers and other office equipment used to assist the candidate in complying with the disclosure requirements and limits of the Act or the New York Election Law;
3) Rental or purchase of motor vehicles for use by the campaign;
4) Rental or purchase of furniture for campaign headquarters;
5) Purchase of food for paid campaign staff and volunteers in connection with their campaign activities;
6) Payment of travel and other expenses of campaign volunteers incurred in connection with the campaign;
7) Payment of travel and other expenses (not including salary or wages) for paid campaign staff incurred in connection with the campaign;
8) Payment of rental, food, beverages, and other expenses of fundraising events;
9) Rental or purchase of typewriters, telefax, and photocopying equipment and supplies.
Section 3-704(1) of the Administrative Code provides that public funds:
may be used only for services, material, facilities or other things of value used to educate the public as to the candidates and issues of an election. Such expenditures may include expenditures associated with advertising, communication with potential voters, and voter registration drives, and such other expenditures that the campaign finance Board determines serve the function of educating the public.
(Emphasis added). Subdivision two of that section specifically prohibits certain uses of public funds.
1) The rent and utilities costs of campaign headquarters are not expenses of educating the public. Thus, public funds may not be used for these purposes.
2) The cost of equipment used to facilitate a candidate's compliance with various legal requirements are not expenses of educating the public. Thus, public funds may not be used for these purposes.
3) 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).
4) The cost of items used primarily as furniture for campaign headquarters is not an expense of educating the public. Thus, public funds may not be used for these purposes.
5) Administrative Code §3-704(2) (f) specifically prohibits the expenditure of public funds for food, drink, or entertainment.
6) Public funds may be used to pay travel and other expenses of campaign volunteers if the expenses are incurred in connection with the volunteers' communication with potential voters or work in a voter registration drive.
7) As is the case with volunteers, public funds may be used to reimburse paid campaign staff for travel and other expenses if those expenses are incurred in connection with the staff workers' communication with potential voters or work in a voter registration drive. Public funds may not, however, be used to pay a salary or wage. Administrative Code §3-704(2) (h).
8) As stated in paragraph five, public funds may not be used for the expenses of food, drink, or entertainment. Administrative Code §3-704(2) (f). The other costs incurred primarily for the purposes of fundraising, including rental and other expenses, may not be paid for with public funds.
9) The purchase of typewriters, telefax, and photocopying equipment and supplies may be paid for with public funds, if the equipment and supplies are used primarily for producing advertising or public education materials to be distributed to the public. In the event the equipment is used both for educational and other purposes the Board would accept a reasonable allocation of the costs of the equipment for the various purposes, and public funds could be used for the costs attributed to the use of the equipment for educational purposes.
NEW YORK CITY CAMPAIGN FINANCE BOARD