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Interpretative Opinion 96-11: Contribution Limitations

September 19, 1996

Natalie O. Ludaway, Esq.
Leftwich & Douglas, P.L.L.C.
Suite 600
1401 New York Avenue, NW
Washington, DC  20005

Re: Contribution to a Constituent Services Program

Dear Ms. Ludaway:

This responds to your request for an opinion concerning the application of DC Code §§ 1-1443 (a) and (c) governing  contributions to a Constituent Service Program (CSP) in the District of Columbia.  You state that it is your understanding  that two individuals may jointly contribute the use of a ship valued at $1,500 to hold a CSP fundraising event.  In addition, these same individuals may contribute up to $400 in cash to this event.

DC Code § 1-1443(a) states in pertinent part that “[n]o person shall make any contribution which, . . ., when aggregated with all other contributions received from such person, exceed $400 per calendar year . . .”.  Further, DC Code § 1-1443(c ) provides that “[c]ontributions of personal property from persons . . . or contributions of the use of personal property shall be valued, for purposes of this section, at the fair market value of such property not to exceed $1,000 per calendar year at the time of the contribution.”

Consequently, it is permissible for persons, which term includes an individual, corporation, or committee ( DC Code § 1- 1401(8)) to contribute annually up to $400 in cash to a CSP, as well as in personal property whose use does not exceed $1,000 in fair market value.  It should be noted that the legislative history of this statute, which dates back to October 1981, supports the foregoing interpretation.

However, a donation of personal property implies an ownership interest in the property donated for use by a CSP.  Therefore, if the two individuals you reference can establish such an ownership interest in the ship, they may jointly contribute the use of the ship valued at $1,500, as well as individually contribute the maximum of $400 in cash to the fundraising event.