Day-to-day operating expenditures
Payments for day-to-day expenses, such as staff salaries, rent, travel, advertising, telephones, office supplies and equipment, fundraising, etc., are permissible operating expenditures. Interest paid on a loan is also considered an operating expenditure.
Certain other expenses are considered to be permissible operating expenditures on a case-by-case basis, including meal, travel, vehicle and legal expenses. For example, if a campaign pays for the candidate’s travel and subsistence in connection with his or her campaign activities, those payments are also considered operating expenditures. Generally, as long as such expenses would not exist irrespective of the candidate’s campaign or duties as a federal officeholder, they are considered permissible.
However, using campaign funds to pay for a candidate’s living expenses is prohibited.
Using credit cards
In the case of operating expenditures charged on a credit card, a committee must itemize a payment to a credit card company if the payment exceeds the $200 aggregate threshold for itemization. The committee must also itemize, as a memo entry, any specific transaction charged on a credit card if the payment to the actual vendor exceeds the $200 threshold. The memo entry must also include the name and address of the vendor, the purpose of the disbursement and the amount of the disbursement. Finally, any credit card debt must be reported following the procedures explained in "Handling loans, debts and advances."
The repayment of both the principal and the interest of a loan owed by the committee are permissible expenses. Repayments of the principal are not considered to be a “payment” for the purposes of the definition of expenditure, and thus are itemized separately on the FEC report. Repayments of the interest on a loan are considered operating expenditures for reporting purposes.
Transferring to other authorized committees
Funds may be transferred between authorized committees of the same candidate (for example, from a previous campaign committee to a current campaign committee) without limit as long as the committee making the transfer has no net debts outstanding.
Alternatively, a candidate may redesignate a former campaign committee as the principal campaign committee of his or her current campaign and use the excess funds of the previous campaign in the current campaign.
Campaigns may refund any contribution, but must refund (or otherwise, disgorge) a contribution that is from a prohibited source or in excess of the contribution limits.
Making in-kind contributions
Any in-kind contribution received by a committee must be reported as an operating expenditure (even though money has not been expended by the committee) in addition to being reported as a contribution received. This reporting adjustment allows the committee to balance its cash on hand.
If a candidate uses his or her personal funds to make expenditures on behalf of the committee without intending to be reimbursed, this constitutes an in-kind contribution from the candidate to the committee. In addition, out-of-pocket spending by candidates, as agents of their authorized committees, requires reporting the original vendor’s information as a disbursement when that vendor exceeds $200 for the election cycle.
Written agreements to make expenditures
A written agreement to make an expenditure, such as a media contract, constitutes an expenditure.
Ballot initiatives and other nonfederal communications
A campaign may support or oppose ballot initiatives as permissible campaign-related expenses. For example, payments for ads in which a candidate endorses a ballot initiative on an issue with which he or she is closely associated are expenditures in connection with the campaign.
A campaign may also make donations to committees that support or oppose ballot initiatives under state election laws. Such donations are considered expenditures under the Federal Election Campaign Act.
Special rules apply to a federal candidate or officeholder’s fundraising for such organizations.
A campaign may also make expenditures for communications that expressly advocate for both the federal candidate and nonfederal candidates. The Commission concluded in AO 2014-03 that a campaign’s expenditures for advertisements that support the federal candidate as well as nonfederal candidates who share the federal candidate’s policy positions and values further the federal candidate’s own candidacy and are “in connection with” a federal election.
Spending limits for publicly funded presidential and vice presidential candidates
Normally, spending limits do not apply to federal campaign committees. However, spending limits do apply to those presidential candidate committees that have qualified for, and agreed to receive, public funding in connection with the primary or general election campaigns. Note that all expenditures made by or on behalf of a vice presidential candidate are considered to be made on behalf of the presidential candidate.
In addition to meeting requirements for contributions, presidential candidates who become eligible for primary public funding must also agree to an overall spending limit, to abide by spending limits in each state, to use public funds only for legitimate campaign-related expenses, to keep financial records and to permit an audit of campaign financial activity.
Presidential major party nominees that accept funding for the general election must agree to abide by the overall spending limit (there are no state-by-state limits) and to other legal requirements, including a post-campaign audit, plus a combined personal spending limit of $50,000 from their personal funds. (Expenditures from personal funds made by a candidate for vice president shall be considered to be expenditures by the candidate for president.)