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Interpretative Opinion 02-07: Use of Campaign Funds

May 29, 2002

Joseph N. Grano, President
Rhodes Tavern – DC Heritage Society
3881 Newark Street, NW, A-475
Washington, DC 20016

Re: Use of Campaign Funds

Dear Mr. Grano:

This responds to your request for an expedited opinion concerning the use of campaign funds by political candidates to endorse an issue affecting District of Columbia residents. Specifically, you ask whether a candidate for political office in the District may expend campaign funds on a political advertisement advocating voting rights for District of Columbia citizens.

DC Official Code § 1-1101.01(7)(A)(2000 Ed.) defines the term, “expenditure” to mean “[a] purchase, payment, . . . or anything of value, made for the purpose of financing, directly or indirectly, the election campaign of a candidate or any operations of a political committee or the election campaign, or any operations of a political committee involved in such a campaign . . .”.

3DCMR § 3013.1 states, “[c]ampaign funds shall be used solely for the purpose of financing, directly or indirectly, the election campaign of a candidate.”

District of Columbia campaign finance law is written in sufficiently broad terms to encompass a campaign expenditure whose express purpose is to endorse a candidate’s advocacy of an issue of importance or relevance to the electorate. Further, the candidate’s position on the issue may distinguish his or her candidacy and/or platform from those of political opponents, thereby influencing the outcome of an election.

Therefore, it is the opinion of the Office of Campaign Finance that candidates for political office in the District of Columbia may endorse the aforementioned advertisement, provided that the expenditure is properly reported in accordance with the Campaign Finance Laws.