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FEC Record: Advisory Opinions

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AO 2011-13 Party Committee May Revise Disclaimers on Solicitation Web Pages

A national party committee may revise the disclaimers that appear on its web pages. The disclaimer requirements are the same for the party committee’s website as for the version of the website that appears on smartphones, personal digital assistants and other mobile devices.

Background
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) is a national committee of the Democratic Party. DSCC solicits credit card contributions on its website and on the version of its website that appears on smartphones, personal digital assistants and other mobile devices (collectively, solicitation web pages).

The DSCC solicitation web pages contain several statements and disclaimers intended to comply with requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) and Commission regulations. One statement reads: "Federal law requires us to use our best efforts to collect and report the name, mailing address, occupation and name of employer of individuals whose contributions exceed $200 in a calendar year." Another reads: “Paid for by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, http://www.dscc.org, and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.” DSCC does not propose altering or eliminating any of the above disclaimers and statements.

DSCC’s solicitation web pages also require contributors to check a box to confirm the following six statements are true: the contribution is made from the contributor’s own funds; the contribution is not made from the general treasury funds of a corporation, labor organization or national bank; the contributor is not a foreign national who lacks permanent U.S. resident status; the contribution is not made from an entity or person who is a federal contractor (this does not apply to personal contributions by subcontractors, employees, partners, shareholders or officers of federal contractors); the contribution is made with a personal credit or debit card for which the contributor has the legal obligation to pay, and the contribution is not made on a corporate or business entity card; the contributor is at least 18 years old.

DSCC proposes to modify its solicitation web pages to eliminate the requirement that contributors check the box to affirm their eligibility to contribute according to the six criteria currently listed. Rather, DSCC proposes to add language below the button that contributors click to complete their contributions that would read:

By clicking this button, I certify that I am at least 18 years old and am making this contribution on a personal credit or debit card with my own personal funds – not those of another person or entity – and that I meet the eligibility requirements set forth below:

  • I am not a foreign national.
  • I am not a federal contractor.”

Next to each of the bulleted statements, DSCC also plans to include a link that would direct contributors to a more comprehensive definition of each term at the bottom of the solicitation web pages.

Analysis
The Act and Commission regulations require websites of political committees that are not authorized by a candidate, an authorized committee of a candidate or an agent of either, to state the full name and permanent address, telephone number or web address of the person paying for the communication, and that the communication is not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. 11 CFR 110.11(a) and (b)(3).

In addition to this disclaimer requirement, the Act and Commission regulations require political committees to keep account of and report the identification of any person who makes a contribution or contributions aggregating more than $200 during a calendar year. 2 U.S.C. §§432(c) and 434(b); 11 CFR 102.9(a) and 104.3(a)(4). Political committee reports will be considered to comply with the Act when committee treasurers exercise best efforts to obtain the contributor’s full name, mailing address, occupation and name of employer, and include an accurate statement of federal law regarding the collection and reporting of contributor identifications. 11 CFR 104.7(b).

The Commission determined that the statements and disclaimers DSCC intends to continue including on its solicitation web pages appear to satisfy the regulations concerning disclaimers and best efforts statements.

In several advisory opinions, the Commission has addressed language political committees proposed to use in soliciting contributions to ensure contributions are not accepted from prohibited sources, including a box for contributors to check. See: Advisory Opinions 2007-30 (Chris Dodd for President), 1995-35 (Alexander for President) and 1995-09 (NewtWatch PAC). The Commission has noted that notice of this type is not required by the Act and Commission regulations. However, the Commission has indicated that such notice would act as an appropriate safeguard against receiving contributions from prohibited sources. The Commission found DSCC’s check box on its current solicitation web pages to be an example of this type of safeguard. Because DSCC is not required to provide a box for contributors to check, but does so as a safeguard, DSCC may revise its solicitation web pages as proposed.                

Date Issued: July 21, 2011; Length: 5 pages.

(Posted 8/23/11; By: Isaac J. Baker)

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The FEC Record is produced by the Information Division, Office of Communications. Toll free 800-424-9530; Local 202-694-1100; E-mail info@fec.gov. Greg Scott, Director; Amy Kort, Asst. Director; Dorothy Yeager, Editor