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Interpretative Opinion 99-04: Solicitation of Funds

April 22, 1999

Max J. Brown
Legal Counsel
Government of the District of Columbia
Office of the Mayor
441-4th Street, NW
Suite 1100S
Washington, DC  20001

Dear Mr. Brown:

This responds to your request, by letter dated April 19, 1999, for an opinion concerning whether under the District of Columbia Campaign Finance Reform and Conflict of Interest Act, as amended, approved August 14, 1974 (88 Stat. 446; as codified in DC Code, Section 1-1401 et seq. (1992 Repl. Vol.))(the “Campaign Finance Act”), the Mayor of the District of Columbia may sign a letter on his personal stationery soliciting funds for the DC Democratic Party.  Specifically, you state the letter would be sent and paid for by the DC Democratic Party.  Your attentin is directed to the following statutory provisions for resolution of your issue.

First, under the Campaign Finance Act, a conflict of interest occurs when a public official participates in an act that affects their financial interests.  DC Code, Section 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 scenario you present, the funds will be solicited on behalf of the DC Democratic Party.  Hence, there would be no financial gain to the Mayor.

Second, the Hatch Act Reform Amendments of 1993 (5 U.S.C., Sections 7321-7326) generally cover the political activities of employees of the District of Columbia Government.  Although the Office of Campaign Finance does not enforce the provisions of the Hatch Act, we note the term “employee” of the “government of the District of Columbia”, as defined by the Act, excepts the Mayor from its coverage by virtue of Section 7322 (1)( c).  Accordingly, the Mayor is not prohibited from soliciting funds on behalf of the DC Democratic Party.  You are cautioned, however, that Sections 1804 and 1806 of the DC Personnel Regulations prohibit the use of government resources or property for other than official business, or government approved or sponsored activities.

For purposes of application of the Hatch Act to other District employees, you are referred to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, 1730 M Street, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC  20036-4505, which may be reached at (202) 653-7143.

Finally, DC Code, Section 1-1706( c) (the “Official Correspondence Act”) prohibits an elected official from using official mail to solicit directly or indirectly funds for any purpose.  In light of your disclosures that the Mayor would use his own stationery, and that the DC Democratic Party intends to send and pay for the mailing, the proposed conduct does not run afoul of this provision.