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FEC Record: Advisory Opinions

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AO 2013-04: Democratic Governors Association/Jobs and Opportunity

As an association of state candidates, the Democratic Governors Association (“Association”) must use federal funds to finance its voter registration, get out the vote, voter identification, and generic campaign activities (“federal election activity” or “FEA”) in connection with the 2014 elections. The Commission could not approve by the required four affirmative votes an answer as to whether another political organization, “Jobs and Opportunity,” whose only members will be the Association’s executive director and chief operating officer, must also use federal funds to finance its FEA.  

Background
The Association is an unincorporated political organization not affiliated with any political party committee and its only members are incumbent Democratic governors. It supports Democratic governors and gubernatorial candidates by providing strategic advice to their campaigns, highlighting their achievements, providing policy guidance, and criticizing policies of Republican governors. It funds these operations using funds that are outside the amount limitations and source prohibitions of the Act (“nonfederal funds”). The Association does, however, report these activities to the appropriate state campaign-finance agencies, as required by state law.

Jobs & Opportunity will also be a political organization and plans to make “independent expenditures” in selected gubernatorial races. Its only members will be the Association’s executive director and its chief operating officer; no officeholders or candidates will be members of Jobs & Opportunity, and the Association’s members “will generally not play a role” in decisions about Jobs & Opportunity’s daily operations or how it spends its funds. 

Both the Association and Jobs & Opportunity plan to make disbursements for voter registration, GOTV activities, voter identification, and generic campaign activities in connection with the 2014 elections. Both would use nonfederal funds to pay for these activities, but neither would use nonfederal funds to pay for public communications that promote, support, attack, or oppose federal candidates.

Analysis
The Act and Commission regulations require any “association or similar group” of state or local candidates or officeholders to pay for FEA with funds subject to the limitations, prohibitions, and reporting requirements of the Act. 2 U.S.C. §441i(b)(1); 11 CFR 300.32(a)(1). This includes voter registration activity within 120 days before a federal election, voter identification, GOTV, and generic campaign activity conducted in connection with an election in which a candidate for federal office appears on the ballot. 2 U.S.C. §431(20)(A)(i)-(ii); 11 CFR 100.24(b).  Because it is an “association… of individuals holding State or local office,” the Association is required to use federal funds to pay for its proposed FEA. 

The Commission was unable to approve by the required four affirmative votes an answer as to whether Jobs & Opportunity must also pay for FEA with only federal funds. 

Date Issued: September 12, 2013; Length: 3 pages

(Posted 9/16/2013; By: Travis Drake)

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