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Who is a member

For membership organizations (including labor organizations and trade associations), most of the restricted class will be made up of the members of the organization, so it’s important to understand the terms “member” and “membership organization” as they appear in FEC regulations.

Definition of membership organization

A membership organization is a trade association, a cooperative, a corporation without capital stock or a local, national or international labor organization that meets the following qualifications:

  • It is composed of members who have the authority to administer the organization according to the organization’s bylaws;
  • Its bylaws state the qualifications for membership;
  • It makes its bylaws available to its members;
  • It expressly solicits persons to become members;
  • It expressly acknowledges new members by, for example, sending a membership card or including the member’s name on a newsletter list; and
  • It is not organized primarily for the purpose of influencing the nomination for election, or the election, of any individual to federal office.

Definition of member

A member of a membership organization is an individual or other entity that:

1. Satisfies the requirements for membership as specified by the membership organization;

2. Affirmatively accepts the organization’s invitation to become a member; and

3. Maintains a relationship with the organization in one of the following ways:

  • It has a significant financial attachment, such as a significant investment or ownership stake;
  • It pays dues at least annually as predetermined by the organization; or
  • It has a significant organizational attachment, which is demonstrated by annual affirmation of membership and direct participatory rights in the governance of the organization, for example:
    • The right to vote directly or indirectly for at least one individual on the membership organization’s highest governing board;
    • The right to vote directly for organization officers;
    • The right to vote on policy questions where the highest governing body is obligated to abide by the results;
    • The right to approve the organization’s annual budget; or
    • The right to participate directly in similar aspects of the organization’s governance.

The Commission may determine, on a case-by-case basis through the advisory opinion process, the membership status of persons who do not meet the requirements but who have a relatively enduring and independently significant financial or organizational attachment to the membership organization (e.g., students, lifetime members and retirees).

Multi-tiered organizations

When an organization has a national federation structure or has affiliates at several levels (e.g., national, state, regional, local), a person who qualifies as a member of one affiliate will also qualify as a member of all affiliates within that organization.

State law inapplicable

Whether or not an organization has members (for purposes of federal campaign finance law) will be determined by FEC regulations and not by the definitions of state law.