August 10, 2012
Barry A. Bostrom, Esquire
ActRight Legal Services
2029 K Street, NW, Suite 300
Washington, D.C. 20006
Dear Mr. Bostrom:
This is in response to your request for an Interpretative Opinion, which was received July 13, 2012, regarding registration requirements. You indicated that ActRight Fund intends to collect contributions for candidate committees through its website and deduct a service fee prior to forwarding the balance of the contribution and contributor information to the candidate’s committee. You additionally indicated that ActRight Fund intends to function solely as a “conduit” by collecting contributions for candidates in the District of Columbia and forwarding the contributions without coordinating its activities with candidates; and ActRight will not engage in independent expenditures. You requested answers to the following four questions:
Does ActRight’s proposed activity constitute political activity requiring ActRight to register as a political committee in the District of Columbia?
If the answer to Question 1 is no does ActRight have any disclosure requirements other than forwarding to recipient committees the necessary disclosure information for contributions being processed?
If the answer to Question 1 is yes, is it permissible for ActRight to act as a conduit to collect and forward to recipient committees contributions made through its website? and
If the answer to Question 3 is yes, how would ActRight be required to report such contributions and what contribution limits would apply?
Title 3DCMR §3000.5 provides that “An unauthorized committee shall be any political committee which has not been designated by a candidate on the statement of candidacy form, filed pursuant to §3006.1, to solicit or receive contributions or make expenditures on behalf of a candidate seeking office, and it shall not include the name of any candidate for elective office in the District of Columbia in its name.”
D.C. Official Code §1-1161.01(10)(A)(I) provides in pertinent part that “Contribution means
(1) A gift, subscription (including any assessment, fee, or membership dues), loan (except a loan made in the regular course of business by a business engaged in the business of making loans), advance, or deposit of money or anything of value, made for the purpose of financing, directly or indirectly,:
(I) The election campaign of a candidate:
(II) Any operations of a political, exploratory, inaugural, transition, or legal defense committee; or
(III) The campaign to obtain signatures on any initiative, referendum, or recall measure, or to bring about the ratification or defeat of any initiative, referendum, or recall measure, or any operations of a political committee involved in such campaign.”
D.C. Official Code §1-1163.09 states in pertinent part that “[t]he following individuals shall file with the Director of Campaign Finance, and with the principal campaign committee, if applicable, reports of receipts and expenditures on forms to be prescribed or approved by the Director of Campaign Finance :
(1) The treasurer of each political committee supporting a candidate;”
D.C. Official Code §1-1163.13 provides that “[e]very person (other than a committee or candidate) who makes contributions or expenditures other than by contribution to a committee or candidate, in an aggregate amount of $50 or more within a calendar year shall file with the director of Campaign Finance a statement containing the information required by §1-1163.09. Statements required by this section shall be filed on dates on which reports by committees are filed, but need not be cumulative.”
Based upon the information you have provided, it appears that ActRight intends to engage in activity as an unauthorized committee that will raise campaign funds for candidates and transmit a portion of the funds to a committee or candidate. Because the funds will be used for the purpose of financing the election campaigns of candidates, ActRight would be required to register with the Office of Campaign Finance as a political committee and comply with the reporting requirements. Therefore, the answer to Question 1 is yes.
In view of our response to Question 1; Question 2 is not applicable.
Question 3 is concerned with whether it is permissible for ActRight to serve as a “conduit” to collect and forward to recipient committees contributions made through its website. Yes, however, any arrangement regarding the collection and forwarding of campaign funds must be determined by the candidate or principal campaign committee and the entity engaged to transmit the funds (ActRight). Thus, the involvement of OCF would be limited to enforcement of contribution limits and reporting requirements.
Finally, with regard to Question 4, as a registered committee, ActRight would be required to assure that contributions from donors do not exceed the contribution limits prescribed by §1-1163.33, which states that “ [n]o person shall make any contribution which , and no person shall receive any contribution from any person which, when aggregated with all other contributions … exceeds :
In the case of a contribution in support of a candidate for Mayor or for the recall of the Mayor, $2,000;
In the case of a contribution in support of a candidate for Chairman of the Council or for the recall of the Chairman of the Council, $1,500;
In the case of a contribution in support of a candidate for member of the Council elected at large or for the recall of a member of the Council elected at –large, $1,000;
In the case of a contribution in support of a candidate for member of the State Board of Education elected at-large or for member of the Council elected from a ward or for the recall of a member of the State Board of Education elected at-large or for the recall of a member of the Council elected from a ward, $500;
In the case of a contribution in support of a candidate for member of the State Board of Education elected from an election ward or for the recall of a member of the State Board of Education elected from an election ward or for an official of a political party,$200;
In the case of a contribution in support of a candidate for a member of an Advisory Neighborhood Commission, $25.”
The foregoing is an Interpretative Opinion of the Director of the Office of Campaign Finance. Pursuant to D.C. Official Code Section 1-1163.06, you are entitled to request an Advisory Opinion from the Board of Elections regarding this transaction or activity.
Should you have any further questions, please contact William O. SanFord, the General Counsel for the Office of Campaign Finance at (202) 671-0550.