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Raising and spending funds for delegate activity

During presidential election campaigns every four years, individuals may seek to be chosen as delegates to a political party’s national nominating convention that will ultimately select that party’s nominees for the Presidency and Vice Presidency. This page contains information regarding FEC rules that govern the activity of delegates and those seeking to become delegates to national nominating conventions, including delegates to any state or local convention or caucus that is held to select delegates to a national nominating convention. These rules include certain fundraising restrictions, the rules on forming delegate committees with other delegates or those seeking to become delegates, and reporting requirements, where applicable. The Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) considers a national nominating convention of a political party to be a federal election since such conventions have the authority to select nominees for federal office on behalf of that party.

Delegate and delegate committee basics

The term delegate means an individual who is seeking selection as a delegate, as defined by state law or party rule, or who has already been selected as a delegate, at any level of the delegate selection process (local, state or national). Delegates and those seeking to become delegates are not required to register with the FEC unless they form a delegate committee

Registering a delegate committee with the FEC

A delegate committee is a group that raises or spends funds to influence the selection of one or more delegates to a national nominating convention. A delegate committee may be a group of delegates, a group of individuals seeking selection as delegates, or a group that supports delegates. A delegate committee becomes a political committee under federal law once it receives contributions or makes expenditures exceeding $1,000 in a calendar year. At that point, the committee must register with the FEC within 10 days and begin filing periodic FEC reports on its receipts and disbursements.

When a delegate committee registers with the FEC, the committee must include the word "delegate" or "delegates" in its name. It may also include the name of the presidential candidate it supports.

Funds raised for delegate activity

With certain exceptions, funds raised and spent for delegate selection are considered “contributions” and “expenditures” made for the purpose of influencing a federal election and are therefore subject to the Act’s prohibitions and limits. For example, a delegate must use funds permissible under federal law to pay for travel to attend the national convention and related subsistence expenses such as food and lodging.

Note that ballot access fees paid by an individual delegate to a state or subordinate political party are not considered contributions or expenditures, nor are administrative payments made by a state or subordinate party committee (including unregistered party organizations) for sponsoring a convention or caucus to select delegates. Nonetheless, the funds used to pay the expenses are subject to the Act’s source prohibitions.

Contribution prohibitions and limits

The contribution limits and prohibitions discussed in this section apply to both monetary contributions and contributions of goods and services, which are known as in-kind contributions.

Individual delegates and delegate committees may not accept any contributions from prohibited sources.

Limits on contributions to delegates and delegate committees

  • Contributions to a delegate committee are subject to an aggregate limit of $5,000 per contributor in a calendar year, including monetary and in-kind contributions.
  • Contributions to an individual delegate are not subject to any per delegate limit, but all contributions received by a delegate or individual seeking to become a delegate must be from permissible sources. Note that contributions to a delegate from the committee of a presidential candidate receiving public funds count against the candidate’s expenditure limits.

Conducting delegate activity

Expenditures for delegate selection only

Expenditures made by delegates and delegate committees solely to further only their selection are not considered contributions to any candidate and are not chargeable to a publicly funded candidate’s spending limits. This type of expenditure might include, for example:

  • A communication which advocates the selection of delegates only; and/or
  • Travel and subsistence expenses, including food and lodging, related to the delegate selection process and the national nominating convention.

Federal candidates/officeholders who serve as delegates

Special rules apply to federal candidates or officeholders who attend the convention as delegates. While campaign funds may not be used to pay for anyone's personal expenses (that is, expenses that would exist irrespective of the candidate's campaign or his/her duties as a federal officeholder), candidates who attend the convention as delegates may use campaign funds to pay for their own convention-related travel, food, and lodging expenses.

Supporting presidential candidates

Limits on contributions made by delegates or delegate committees to candidates

When a delegate or delegate committee makes an expenditure that benefits a presidential or other federal candidate, the expenditure may result in an in-kind contribution to that candidate (as explained under “Dual-purpose expenditures for communications”). Such contributions (including anything of value given to the candidate) count against the applicable contribution limits.

Note that a contribution to a candidate must be reported by the candidate’s committee. For this reason, when making an in-kind contribution, a delegate or delegate committee should notify the candidate’s committee of the monetary value. In-kind contributions generally count against a publicly funded presidential candidate’s expenditure limits.

Dual-purpose expenditures for communications

An individual delegate or a delegate committee may pay for communications that both:

  • Advocate the selection of an individual delegate or the delegates promoted by the delegate committee; and
  • Refer to, provide information on, or expressly advocate the election or defeat of a presidential candidate (or candidate for any public office).

A portion of a dual-purpose expenditure may have to be allocated as an in-kind contribution or an independent expenditure on behalf of any federal candidate mentioned in the ad. Moreover, the communication may have to include a disclaimer notice.

Materials distributed by volunteers

Dual-purpose expenditures for campaign materials such as pins, bumper stickers, handbills, brochures, posters and yard signs are not considered in-kind contributions on behalf of the federal candidate mentioned in the materials as long as the materials are used in connection with volunteer activities (that is, are distributed by volunteers) and are not conveyed through public political advertising. For purposes of the delegate selection regulations, public political advertising means political advertising conveyed through broadcasting, newspapers, magazines, billboards, direct mail or similar types of general public communication. Direct mail means mailings by commercial vendors or mailings made from lists not developed by the individual delegate or delegate committee.

Public ads: In-kind contributions

A portion of a dual-purpose expenditure is considered an in-kind contribution to the referenced candidate if the communication:

  • Is conveyed through public political advertising (or is not distributed by volunteers); and
  • Is made in cooperation or consultation with, or at the request or suggestion of (that is, is coordinated with), the presidential candidate (or other federal candidate) or the candidate’s campaign.

The contribution counts against a publicly funded presidential candidate’s expenditure limits.

Public ads: Independent expenditures

A portion of a dual-purpose expenditure for a communication that is conveyed through public political advertising is considered an independent expenditure (rather than an in-kind contribution) on behalf of the candidate if the communication:

  • Expressly advocates the election (or defeat) of a clearly identified candidate; and
  • Is not coordinated with the candidate or the candidate’s campaign.

Independent expenditures are not subject to the contribution limits and are not chargeable to a publicly funded presidential candidate’s expenditure limits. Note that independent expenditures must carry a disclaimer notice and are subject to certain reporting requirements.

Allocation of dual-purpose expenditures

The amount of a dual-purpose expenditure allocated as an in-kind contribution or independent expenditure on behalf of a candidate must be in proportion to the benefit the candidate receives, based on factors such as the amount of space or time devoted to the candidate compared with total space or time.

Expenditures to reproduce candidate materials

Expenditures by a delegate or delegate committee to reproduce (in whole or in part) or to disseminate materials prepared by a presidential candidate’s committee (or other federal candidate’s committee) are considered in-kind contributions to the candidate. Although subject to contribution limits, this type of contribution is not chargeable to a publicly funded presidential candidate’s spending limits as long as the expenditure was not coordinated with the candidate or the candidate’s campaign. If the materials are conveyed through public political advertising, they may have to include a disclaimer notice.

Disclaimer notices

Any public communication made by a political committee – including communications that do not expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified federal candidate or solicit a contribution – must display a clear and conspicuous disclaimer. In addition, any public communication by any person that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified federal candidate must carry a disclaimer.

Affiliation

Delegate committees—including unregistered committees—must determine whether they are affiliated with another delegate committee or a candidate’s committee because affiliated committees are considered one political committee for purposes of the contribution limits—they share the same limits on contributions received and made. (There is, however, no limit on funds transferred between affiliated committees. If a delegate committee is affiliated with a presidential campaign, it will share the limit applicable to that presidential campaign.)

Between delegate and presidential committees

Factors indicating affiliation

In determining whether a delegate committee and a presidential committee are affiliated, the Commission may consider, among other factors, whether:

  • The presidential candidate, his or her authorized committee, or an agent of either, played a significant role in forming the delegate committee;
  • Any delegate associated with a delegate committee has been or is on the staff of the presidential committee;
  • The committees have overlapping officers or employees;
  • The presidential committee provides funds or goods to the delegate committee in a significant amount or on an ongoing basis (not including a transfer of joint fundraising proceeds);
  • The presidential campaign suggests or arranges for contributions to be made to the delegate committee;
  • The committees show similar patterns of contributions received;
  • One committee provides a mailing list to the other committee;
  • The presidential campaign provides ongoing administrative support to the delegate committee;
  • The presidential campaign directs or organizes the campaign activities of the delegate committee; or
  • The presidential campaign files statements or reports on behalf of the delegate committee.

Effect on expenditure limits of publicly funded candidate

If a delegate committee is affiliated with the committee of a presidential candidate receiving public funds, all of the delegate committee’s expenditures count against the presidential candidate’s expenditure limits.

Between delegate committees

Delegate committees established, financed, maintained or controlled by the same person or group are affiliated. Factors that indicate affiliation between delegate committees are found at 11 CFR 100.5(g)(4) of FEC regulations.

Reporting

By individual delegates and unregistered delegate committees

Individual delegates and delegate committees that have not qualified as political committees under the Act are not required to register or file regular reports. But, if they make independent expenditures exceeding $250, they must disclose the expenditures on Form 5. Further, independent expenditures are also subject to certain 24- and 48-hour reporting requirements based on the timing and the amount of the expenditures.

By registered delegate committees

Once a delegate committee is registered with the Commission, the committee must begin disclosing its receipts and disbursements by filing periodic reports using Form 3X. All pre-registration activity must be disclosed in the first report.

If a delegate committee makes independent expenditures, these must be disclosed in the committee’s regular FEC report, but are also subject to certain 24- and 48-hour reporting requirements based on the timing and the amount of the expenditures.

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