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Interpretative Opinion 05-05: Exploratory Committee

November 30, 2005
 

George R. Clark, Esq.
910 17th Street, N.W.
Suite 800
Washington, D.C. 20006

Re: Exploratory Committee

Dear Mr. Clark:

This responds to your request for an opinion concerning whether the Exploratory Committee Disclosure Informational Report and Contribution Temporary Amendment Act of 2005, now D.C. Act 16-178 (Exploratory Act) would require your client, A. Scott Bolden, to count contributions to his former exploration for the office of Mayor against the maximum individual campaign contributions for his candidacy for the office of At-Large Member of the Council. [According to the records of the Office of Campaign Finance (OCF), Mr. Bolden officially registered as a candidate for the office of At-Large Member of the Council under Bolden 2006 DC Council Member At-Large on July 5, 2005.]

OCF viewed your request as one of statutory interpretation and sought assistance from Charlotte Brookins Hudson, General Counsel to the Council of the District of Columbia. She stated that, as you are aware, the Exploratory Act establishes different maximum aggregate and individual contribution limits for a Mayoral exploratory committee, a Chairman of the Council exploratory committee, and an At-Large Member of the Council exploratory committee, at section 5. She continued that for the purpose of calculating these contributions, exploratory contributions are treated as campaign contributions.

Ms. Hudson pointed out that section 6 states:

When an individual decides to run for office and becomes a candidate, contributions received during the exploratory period, beginning March 1, 2005, shall apply to the campaign contribution limits for the candidate, as provided under section 3 of the District of Columbia Campaign Contribution Limitation Initiative Act of 1992.

Ms. Hudson said, in part:

While the Exploratory Act does not expressly state, for the purpose of applying section 6, that exploratory contributions received by an individual for one office should apply if [the individual] becomes a candidate for a different office, the reference to section 3 of the Campaign Finance Act, and the different contribution limitations for explorers and candidates for Mayor and Members of the Council seems to be inconsistent with a conclusion that the Council intended the maximum limitation to apply to explorers who become candidates for a different office. Rather, the fact that the Council used the word ‘office’ throughout the legislation and refers to section 3 of the Campaign Finance Act which has specific references to the Office of Mayor, the Office of Chairman, Office of Member of the Council, and Office of Member of the Board of Education, reflects a clear intent that the word ‘office” not be limited to any elected office, but that it apply to a specific office such as Mayor, Chairman, Member of the Council, and Member of the Board of Education.

Ms. Hudson opined that “[t]here is no express language to indicate whether the Council intended that exploratory contributions received by an individual for one office should apply if he or she becomes a candidate for a different office. Absent a definition of what is meant by ‘office’ in the Exploratory Act, applying the plain understanding of the word ‘office,’ as used in election law, would mean that it applies to [the] discrete offices [noted above and] section 6 does not apply to a situation where an explorer receives contributions for one office and later becomes a candidate for a different office.”

I concur wholeheartedly with Ms. Hudson’s opinion and hereby adopt it within this response as an Interpretative Opinion of the Director of the Office of Campaign Finance. Pursuant to D.C. Official Code §1-1103.05, you are entitled to request an Advisory Opinion from the Board of Elections and Ethics on this transaction or activity.

Should you have any additional questions, please contact Kathy S. Williams, General Counsel, at (202) 671-0550.