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Interpretative Opinion 05-03: Solicitation of Funds

March 10, 2005

Thorn Pozen, Chief of Staff
Office of the Honorable Adrian Fenty
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 408
Washington, DC 20004

Dear Mr. Pozen:

This responds to your request for an opinion concerning whether Councilmember Fenty’s sending out a letter under his signature in which he invites the recipients to serve as committee members for a fundraiser for a Ward Four nonprofit private school’s capital campaign would violate any provisions of the District of Columbia Campaign Finance and Conflict of Interest Act.

You provided a draft of a letter in which the Councilmember extols the virtues of the Kingsbury Day School and refers to the school’s “The Future is Now Campaign” as an effort to raise $4 million for program expansion and capital improvements. The letter also states that the Councilmember has agreed to host a fundraising event scheduled for May or early June to honor distinguished members of the community who have made significant contributions to children and education and advises the prospective committee members that their role would entail securing underwriting and attendees for the event.

D.C. Official Code § 1-1106.01(b) (2001 Edition) provides that “[n]o public official shall use his or her official position or office to obtain financial gain for himself or herself, any member of his or her household, or any business with which he or she or any member of his or her household is associated with, other than that compensation provided by law for said public official. This subsection shall not affect a vote by a public official: (1) On any matter which affects a class of persons (such a class shall include no less than 50 persons) of which such public official is a member if the financial gain to be realized is de minimis…”.

In the instant case, it appears that the solicitation of funds will be conducted on behalf of the Kingsbury School. Thus, there would be no financial gain to the Councilmember.

Although you did not indicate whether the Council member intends to solicit participation in a fundraising effort on behalf of the Kingsbury School on official Government letterhead, personal stationery, or by neither means, it should be noted that D.C. Official Code §2-706(c) (the “Official Correspondence Act”) prohibits an elected official from using official mail to solicit directly or indirectly funds for any purpose (emphasis added). Notwithstanding the prohibition against the Councilmember using official mail, there does not appear to be any provision that would prevent him from using his personal stationery to solicit participation in the event.

Therefore, based upon the information you have provided, it is the opinion of the Office of Campaign Finance that Councilmember Fenty would not violate the District of Columbia Campaign Finance Reform and Conflict of Interest Act by sending out the letter under his signature on his personal stationary.