September 20, 2000
Mr. Adrian Fenty
c/o Jason Washington
7546 Alaska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20012
Dear Mr. Fenty:
This responds to your request, by letter dated September 19, 2000, for an interpretative opinion concerning whether you may attend on September 21, 2000, a primary victory celebration hosted by Leadership 2000, assuming that members of this PAC contributed the maximum during the primary. Further, you state that Leadership 2000 is the political action committee (PAC), which financed an independent expenditure during the Ward 4 Primary.
The District of Columbia Campaign Finance Reform and Conflict of Interest Act (the Campaign Finance Act), 88 Stat. 447, Pub. L. 93-376 (August 14, 1974), as codified in DC Code, Sections 1-1401 et seq. (1999 Repl. Vol.), does not prohibit you from attending the Victory Celebration sponsored by Leadership 2000. In addition, the Campaign Finance Act does not prohibit you, as a candidate, from attending an event sponsored by a political action committee. Independent expenditures made by the political action committee are viewed separately from contributions made directly to your campaign. The law does presume, however, that no arrangement, coordination or direction by you, as a candidate, or your agent, has taken place with respect to the expenditure of funds by a political action committee.
At 3 DCMR, Section 9900 (June 1998) the term “independent expenditures” is defined as an “expenditure for communications by a person expressly advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate, which is made without cooperation or consultation with any candidate, or any authorized committee or agent of the candidate under DC Code, Section 1-1441.1(f)”. DC Code, Section 1-1441.1(f) provides that “any expenditure made by any person advocating the election or defeat of any candidate for office which is not made at the request or suggestion of the candidate, any agent of the candidate, or any political committee authorized to make expenditures or receive contributions for the candidate is not considered a contribution to or an expenditure by or on behalf of the candidate for the purposes of the limitations specified in this subchapter”.
DC Code, Section 1-1441.1(f) clearly distinguishes an “independent expenditure”, which is made independently of a candidate and/or a campaign, from a “contribution”, which is subject to the contribution limitations set forth in Section 1-1441.1. A “contribution”, as defined by DC Code, Section 1-1401(6)(A), includes the payment of “anything of value, made for the purpose of financing, directly or indirectly, the election campaign of a candidate or any operations of a political committee….”.
If the Office of Campaign Finance finds that an expenditure made by any person is not independent, it will be subject to the limitations placed on campaign contributions, and categorized as an excessive or in-kind contribution.