This section describes ways in which campaigns may assist one another without making a contribution.
Campaigns may share common expenses (for example, rent for a shared headquarters or printing for a brochure that promotes each campaign) without a contribution resulting, as long as each committee pays its attributed portion of the costs. If one committee pays a bill, the other committees involved in the expense must reimburse that committee for their portion of the expense within a reasonable period of time to avoid a contribution. Payments by nonfederal campaigns for shared expenses involving certain public communications must be made from funds that are subject to the limitations, prohibitions and reporting requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act).
"Coattail" support in campaign materials
Under the “coattail” provision of the Act, a federal candidate may be mentioned in some campaign materials produced by another federal candidate’s campaign or by the campaign of a nonfederal candidate. The committee making the expenditure must report it, but the candidate named in the ad has no reporting responsibility. The payment for the materials is not a contribution to the referenced federal candidate provided that these guidelines are met:
- The materials must be limited to items such as pins, bumper stickers, handbills, brochures, posters and yard signs;
- The materials must be distributed by volunteers (for example, by hand) or by mail using lists developed by the candidate’s campaign (but not by direct mail); and
- The materials may not be distributed through public political advertising such as broadcast media, newspapers, magazines, billboards or direct mail (a mailing by a commercial vendor or made from a commercial list).
A U.S. House campaign may produce a yard sign that includes the name of a U.S. Senate candidate without allocating a portion of the cost as an in-kind contribution to that candidate (as long as the guidelines are met).
Endorsements and solicitations by federal candidates
A public communication in which a federal candidate endorses, or solicits funds for, another candidate for federal or nonfederal office does not result in a contribution to the endorsing (or soliciting) candidate unless the communication promotes or supports the endorsing (or soliciting) candidate or attacks or opposes his opponent in the election.
Candidate X, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, appears in a commercial for Candidate Y, a candidate for county prosecutor. In the commercial, Candidate X states, “Candidate Y is one of the best courtroom prosecutors we’ve ever had in this country. Vote for Candidate Y!” Candidate X makes no mention of her own campaign and does not attack or oppose any of the candidates she’s running against.
As long as the commercial neither promotes or supports Candidate X nor attacks or opposes her opponents, the cost of the commercial will not result in an in-kind contribution to Candidate X’s campaign.