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Remedying an excessive contribution

When a committee receives an excessive contribution—one which exceeds the contributor’s limit or the campaign’s net debts outstanding for an election—the committee may remedy the violation by refunding the excessive amount or by seeking a redesignation or reattribution of it within 60 days.

Redesignation

By contributor: With a redesignation, the contributor instructs the committee to use the excessive portion of a contribution for an election other than the one for which the funds were originally given. For example, the contributor may redesignate the excessive portion of a contribution made for the primary election so that it counts against his or her limit with respect to the general election (provided the contributor has not already contributed the maximum for the general election).

When requesting a redesignation, the committee must inform the contributor that he or she may, alternatively, request a refund of the excessive amount.

By committee: Under certain circumstances, the committee may make a presumptive redesignation of an excessive contribution. When an individual or a non-multicandidate committee makes an excessive contribution to a candidate’s authorized committee, the campaign may presumptively redesignate the excessive portion to the general election if the contribution:

  • Is made before that candidate’s primary election;
  • Is not designated in writing for a particular election;
  • Would be excessive if treated as a primary election contribution; and
  • As redesignated, does not cause the contributor to exceed any other contribution limit.
  • Also, the excessive portion of an undesignated contribution made after the primary, but before the general election, may be automatically applied to the primary if the campaign’s net debts outstanding from the primary equal or exceed the amount redesignated.

The committee is required to notify the contributor in writing of the presumptive redesignation within 60 days of the treasurer’s receipt of the contribution, and must offer the contributor the option to receive a refund instead.

It is important to note that presumptive redesignations may be made only within the same election cycle. Also, presumptive redesignation is not an option when the contributor is a multicandidate committee.

Reattribution

By contributor: With a reattribution, the contributor instructs the committee in writing to attribute the excessive portion of a joint contribution to another individual. For example, if the committee receives an excessive contribution drawn on a joint checking account, but signed by only one account holder, the committee may seek a reattribution signed by each contributor of the excessive amount to the other account holder. (A joint contribution may also be reattributed so that a different amount is attributed to each contributor.) Note that a joint contribution must represent the personal funds of each contributor because contributions made in the name of another are prohibited.

When requesting reattributions, the committee must also inform contributors that they may, alternatively, ask for a refund of the excessive portions of their contributions.

By committee: When a committee receives an excessive contribution made via a written instrument with more than one individual’s name imprinted on it, but only one signature, the committee may attribute the permissible portion to the signer. The committee may make a presumptive reattribution of the excessive portion to the other individual whose name is imprinted on the written instrument, without obtaining a second signature, so long as the reattribution does not cause the contributor to exceed any other contribution limit.

The committee is required to notify the contributors in writing of the presumptive reattribution within 60 days of the treasurer’s receipt of the contribution, and must offer the contributors the option to receive a refund if it was not intended to be a joint contribution.

When to request redesignations and reattributions

In many circumstances, the committee will be able to presumptively redesignate or reattribute contributions. For all other circumstances, contributions can be redesignated or reattributed only by the individual contributor.

A committee may ask a contributor to redesignate and/or reattribute a contribution (within 60 days of the treasurer’s receipt). For example, when the committee receives:

  • A designated or undesignated contribution that exceeds the donor’s limit.
  • A designated or undesignated contribution for an election in which the candidate is not running. For example, a contribution that was designated for the general but was received before the primary may be redesignated for a future primary if the candidate loses the primary or otherwise does not run in the general election.
  • A contribution that is designated for, but made after, an election and that exceeds the campaign’s net debts outstanding for that election.
  • An undesignated contribution (which normally applies to the candidate’s upcoming election) that the committee wants to use to retire debts of a previous election. Note that, if it is redesignated, the contribution then counts against the donor’s contribution limits for that previous election.

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