Interpretative Opinion 07-04: Use of Campaign and Citizen-Service Funds
February 13, 2007
The Honorable Kwame R. Brown
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004
Dear Councilmember Brown:
This responds to your request for an opinion regarding whether it will be appropriate for you to use constituent services funds to charter a bus to transport residents to Capitol Hill for Congress Day on February 15, 2007. According to your request, “[t]he purpose of the event, sponsored by DC Vote, is to visit [C]ongress to lobby for DC voting rights in Congress.” In my opinion, your use of constituent services funds as outlined above is not prohibited under the Campaign Finance Act.
D.C. Code §1-1104.03(a) (2001 Edition) states, in part that “. . .each member of the Council may establish citizen-service programs within the District of Columbia [and that n]o campaign activities shall be conducted nor shall campaign literature or paraphernalia be distributed as part of citizen-service programs conducted pursuant to this subsection.”
The regulations specify that “[a] citizen-service program shall encompass 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.” Further, “[c]itizen-service programs shall be prohibited from participating in any of the following: (a) promoting or opposing a political party or committee; (b) promoting or opposing the nomination or election of an individual to public office; (c) promoting or opposing any initiative, referendum or recall measure; (d) distributing campaign literature or paraphernalia; (e) using any funds for personal purposes of the elected official; and (f) conducting any other campaign activities covered in this title.” 3 D.C.M.R. §3014.1-3014.2 (1998, as amended).
The statute disallows the use of citizen-service, or constituent, services funds for any campaign activities. In the District of Columbia, these activities are solidly linked to the promotion or opposition of a political party, a political committee, a measure or an individual for office. Inasmuch as the statute is silent on the use of constituent services funds to lobby the U.S. Congress, it is not forbidden. Moreover, since the purpose of the event is to support D.C. voting rights in Congress, an activity which would support the “general welfare” of the residents of the District of Columbia, your use of constituent services funds therefor falls squarely within the purposes for which it was created.
This is an Interpretative Opinion of the Director of the Office of Campaign Finance. Pursuant to D.C. Official Code §1-1103.05(c)(1), you are entitled to request an advisory opinion from the Board of Elections and Ethics on this transaction or activity. If you have any questions, please contact William O. SanFord, Senior Staff Attorney, on (202) 671-0550.