July 9, 2002
Ms. Margaret Gentry
907 Sixth Street, SW
Washington, DC 20024
Re: Contribution Limitations
Dear Ms. Gentry:
This responds to your request for an opinion concerning the appropriate disposition of excessive contributions received by the Committee to Re-Elect Carol Schwartz (Committee) during the 2000 election campaign. Specifically, the Committee received three (3) checks for $500 each from DC Chartered Health Plan, Inc., Chartered Family Health Center, and Rapidtrans, Inc., corporate entities whose relationship was unknown to you at the time of acceptance of the contributions. You further state that you became aware of the status of the referenced entities, the associated contributions, and OCF regulations governing certain contribution limitations via a letter to Councilmember Schwartz from John Ray dated April 2, 2002. As you are aware, the Committee to Re-Elect Carol Schwartz (2000 campaign) is currently being audited by OCF’s Audit Division. Therefore, other contributions may be affected. Notwithstanding, the issue presented here is how the former campaign may address the excessive contribution.
DC Code Official Code § 1-1131.01(a)(3) states, “[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 received from that person, relating to a campaign for nomination as a candidate or election to public office, . . . , exceeds: in the case of a contribution in support of a candidate for member of the Council elected at-large…, $1,000.”
3 DCMR § 3011.13 provides, “[a] corporation, its subsidiaries, and all political committees established, financed, maintained or controlled by the corporation and its subsidiaries share a single contribution limitation.”
Based on the foregoing, any excessive contribution must be returned to the donor. In the case of a Committee that has not been officially closed by the Director of Campaign Finance, and whose financial records reflect a positive balance on hand, it is permissible to use existing funds to refund the excessive contribution. However, where there is a zero or negative balance on hand, it would be permissible for the Committee to engage in fundraising activities for the limited purpose of retiring former campaign debt. Further, contributors should be informed of the purpose of the fundraiser, and may not contribute more than the contribution limit in effect for the elected office at the time of the former election.