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Interpretative Opinion 99-08: Solicitation of Funds

June 17, 1999

Adrian Fenty, Legal Counsel
Office of the Honorable Kevin Chavous
Council of the District of Columbia
441-4th Street, NW
Washington, DC  20001

Re: Use of Government Letterhead to Solicit Funds

Dear Mr. Fenty:

This responds to your request for an opinion concerning whether it is appropriate for Councilmember Chavous to solicit funds on behalf of a private group on official Government letterhead, personal stationery, or by neither means.  Specifically, you provided a draft letter, whose dual purpose is the announcement of the planning of a DC Environmental Summit (Summit) [involving the Mayor, the District of Columbia Council and representatives from the public and private sectors], as well as the solicitation of financial support for the event.  The letter states the objective of the Summit, and invites the support of businesses, corporations, federal and local government, in addition to public interest and community groups.

First, under the DC Campaign Finance Act, a conflict of interest occurs when a public official participates in an act that affects his or her own financial interests.  DC Code § 1-1461(b) provides that “[n]o public official shall use his or her official position or office to obtain financial gain for himself or herself . . . other than that compensation provided by law for said public official.”  In the instant case, it appears the funds will be solicited on behalf of the Summit.  Hence, there would be no financial gain to the Councilmember.

Second, DC Code § 1-1706( c) (the “Official Correspondence Act”) prohibits an elected official from using official mail to solicit directly or indirectly funds for any purpose (emphasis added).  Further, pursuant to DC Code § 1-1704(g), “the rules to implement this law shall be those in the rules of the Council.”  Notwithstanding, it appears there is no prohibition against Councilmember Chavous’ use of his personal stationery to solicit funds on behalf of the private entity as long as such solicitation does not run afoul of the Conflict of Interest statute.