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Interpretative Opinion 01-08: Citizen-Service Event

May 1, 2001

The Honorable Adrian M. Fenty
Councilmember – Ward 4
Council of the District of Columbia
Washington, DC  20001

Re:  Citizen-Service Event

Dear Councilmember Fenty:

This responds to your request for an opinion concerning a job fair/basketball tournament you plan to host for the Ward 4 community.  You state that there will be a registration fee of $5 per participant in the tournament, or 8 teams with 10 players each for a total cost of $50 per team.  Specifically, you ask whether the following are permissible under the DC Campaign Finance Act:  (1) whether checks for this event may be made payable to your citizen-service program, the Councilmember Fenty Constituent Service Fund; and (2) whether corporate sponsors may be solicited to assist in facilitating this event, and in what capacity.  Finally, you inquire concerning the legal sufficiency of the flier for the event.

  DC Code § 1-1443(a) states, “ . . . each member of the Council may establish citizen-service programs . . . and may finance the operation of such programs with contributions from persons, provided, that contributions . . . do not exceed an aggregate amount of $40,000 in any 1 calendar year.”  Further, “[n]o person shall make any contribution which, . . . when aggregated with all other contributions received from such person, exceed $400 per calendar year, provided, that such $400 limitation shall not apply to contributions made by . . . any member of the Council for the purposes of funding his or her own citizen-service program within the District of Columbia.

  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.”
DC Code § 1-1443(e) states, “[a]ctivities authorized by this section may be carried on at any location in the District of Columbia, provided that employees of the District of Columbia government do not engage in citizen-service fundraising activities during normal business hours.”

3 DCMR § 3014 states, “[a] citizen-service program shall encompass any activity or program which provides services to the residents of the District of Columbia; and promotes their general welfare, including, but not limited to, charitable, scientific, educational, medical, or recreational purposes” (emphasis added).

The event you anticipate hosting appears to have been contemplated to provide services to, and for the benefit of, the District community.  Such an activity could be reasonably considered a citizen-service program as described by regulation.  Therefore, any checks received to defray the costs of the activity may be made payable to your citizen-service fund.

Secondly, there is no provision in the statute to prevent the solicitation of corporate sponsors for financial contributions and/or the use of volunteers to facilitate this event.  However, contributions to the job fair/basketball tournament may not exceed $400 in cash and $1,000 in personalty at fair market value pursuant to DC Code §§ 1-1443(a) and ( c).

Finally, we recommend that the flier you submitted for review contain language that states that the event is to benefit District residents, consistent with the purpose of citizen-service programs.