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Interpretative Opinion 97-10: Transfer of Surplus Campaign Funds

October 22, 1997

Joan Lankowski, Finance Director
For The Honorable Carol Schwartz
Council Member At-Large
441-4th Street, NW
Suite 760
Washington, DC  20001

Re: Transfer of Surplus Campaign Funds

Dear Ms. Lankowski:

This responds to your request for an opinion concerning the transfer of surplus campaign funds to a Constituent Service Program.  Specifically, you ask the following: (1) whether a one-time exemption applies to the transfer of these funds; (2) whether such transfer may occur in two (2) increments; and (3) whether such transfers would be prohibited if they were to exceed $40,000.00.

DC Code § 1-1443 authorizes members of the Council, among other elected officials, to establish constituent service programs, and limits receipts to and expenditures from this program to $40,000.00 annually.  However, DC Code § 1-1472(b), which governs the distribution of surplus campaign funds, states in pertinent part, “an individual elected to an office under this chapter and authorized to establish a program of constituent services under § 1-1443, shall be authorized to transfer any surplus, residue or unexpended campaign funds to his or her program of constituent services.”  This law neither restricts the number of transfers that may occur from surplus campaign funds to a constituent service program, nor established monetary limitations on amounts which may be transferred-in from such surplus funds.

The “one-time exemption” referenced in our Information Circulars refers to the exemption from the monetary limitation imposed by statute on the annual contribution and expenditure amounts.  Therefore, it is the opinion of the Office of Campaign Finance that the “one-time exemption” is not applicable to the transfer-in of surplus campaign funds; that more than one transfer of surplus campaign funds to a Constituent Service Program is permissible; and that amounts in excess of $40,000.00 may be transferred-in from surplus campaign funds of an elected official duly authorized to establish such a fund.