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Designating contributions made by nonconnected PAC

Designated contributions

The Commission encourages nonconnected committees, when contributing to candidates, to designate their contributions in writing for a particular election (for example, primary or general). The designation may be made either on the contribution check or in a signed statement accompanying the contribution. Only the contributor—not the recipient candidate committee—may designate a contribution for a particular election.

Undesignated contributions

An undesignated contribution automatically counts against the limits for the next scheduled election. Therefore, if a nonconnected committee wishes to make a contribution for any election other than the next one, the contribution must be designated in writing.

When designation is required

Future elections

A written designation is required when a nonconnected committee wants a contribution to apply toward a future election other than the next one. For example, a committee may make a contribution to a candidate’s general election campaign before the primary election has taken place, but the committee’s check (or an accompanying statement) must say “General” in order to count toward the general election limit.

Past elections (debt retirement)

When making a contribution to retire a candidate’s debts from a past election campaign, a nonconnected committee must designate the contribution for the appropriate election. The nonconnected committee must also be certain that the contribution, when aggregated with other contributions from the committee for that same election, does not exceed the committee’s per-election limit.

The candidate committee may accept the contribution only if the campaign has net debts outstanding from the designated election on the day it receives the contribution.

Effect of date made

Designated contributions

A candidate may always accept a designated contribution if it is made before the designated election, regardless of whether the candidate has outstanding debts from that election. However, a designated contribution is subject to the net debts outstanding rule, if it is made after the election for which it is designated.

Undesignated contributions

A nonconnected committee may make an undesignated contribution on or before the day of the election regardless of whether the candidate has debts, even if the candidate does not receive the check until after the election has passed. See “Determining the date made.” An undesignated contribution made after the election has passed, however, must be applied to the donor’s limit for the next election.

For the purposes of the per-election limits, then, it is important to distinguish the date a contribution is made by the contributor from the date it is received by a candidate.

Determining the date made

The date a contribution is made is the date when the contributing nonconnected committee relinquishes control of the funds. In practice this means that:

  • An in-kind contribution is made on the date that the goods or services are provided to the recipient committee. 
  • A mailed contribution is made on the date of the postmark. 
  • A hand-delivered contribution is considered made on the date it is delivered to the campaign committee or to an agent of the campaign (such as the candidate).

Redesignation

A candidate committee may ask a nonconnected committee to redesignate a contribution (or a portion of it) for a different election. Redesignation permits the donor to remedy an excessive contribution so that the excessive portion counts against a different election limit.

A nonconnected committee may comply with a request for redesignation by returning a signed statement redesignating the contribution. The candidate committee must receive the redesignation within 60 days of its receipt of the original contribution. Otherwise, the candidate must refund the excessive portion to the committee.

In some cases, a campaign may “presumptively redesignate” an excessive primary contribution to the general election if the redesignation would not result in another excessive contribution. Campaigns may presumptively redesignate a contribution from non-multicandidate PACs, but not from multicandidate PACs.

The committee may always request a refund from the candidate instead of providing the redesignation.

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