September 24, 1999
The Honorable Kevin P. Chavous
Councilmember – Ward 7
Council of the District of Columbia
441-4th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
Re: Solicitation of Funds
Dear Councilmember Chavous:
This responds to your request for an opinion concerning a fundraising event planned by your office in conjunction with a group of citizens. You state that you will be soliciting funds to support the purchase of school supplies for needy children. Specifically, you ask the following: (1) whether you need to establish a separate tax identification number; (2) whether a formalized process exists that mandates how to establish an additional bank account; and (3) whether there are limits on contributions that may be accepted [and deposited in the new bank account] for purposes of this project. It appears you will control the funds.
First, the fundraising event you describe and your involvement are non-political in nature, and fall within the activities contemplated by a Citizen-Service Program. As you are aware, a “Citizen-Service Program” encompasses “. . . any activity or program which provides services to the residents of the District of Columbia; and promotes their general welfare, including, but not limited to, charitable, scientific, educational, medical or recreational purposes.” 3 DCMR §3014.1 (June 1998). Pursuant to DC Code § 1-1443(d), all of the record keeping requirements of the Campaign Finance Act apply to contributions and expenditures made by persons to Citizen-Service Programs. DC Code §1-1413 requires a Citizen-Service Program to establish and maintain a depository account, wherein contributions should be deposited and expenditures made. Where a Citizen-Service Program has an existing bank account and tax identification number, it is our view that there is no requirement either to establish an additional bank account or tax identification number to distinguish contributions and/or expenditures for specific purposes.
Finally, within the context of a Citizen-Service Program activity, individual contributions may not exceed $400 in cash, or $1,000 in personal property at fair market value during a calendar year. DC Code § 1-1443(a) does not limit the contributions made by a person authorized to establish such a Program for the purpose of funding his or her own Citizen-Service Program. Additionally, neither contributions to nor expenditures from a Citizen-Service Program may exceed $40,000 per calendar year.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Campaign Finance Act does not preclude a “group of citizens” from arranging such a fundraiser, and inviting your support, where the event is not coordinated out of your office and you do not control the fundraising operations or the funds contributed. A fundraiser under such circumstances would not be subject to our jurisdiction as a non-political event.