This section explores rules for travel payments. Generally, campaigns may pay for campaign-related travel as operating expenditures. An in-kind contribution generally results from the source of payment for the travel unless an exemption for individual travel applies or the campaign pays for its own campaign travel.
If a campaign uses an aircraft that is operated for commercial air service, such as a commercial airline or charter service, or another means of commercial transportation, the campaign must pay the usual and normal charge for that service to avoid receiving an in-kind contribution from the service provider.
Non-commercial air travel
The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 (HLOGA) amended the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) to restrict campaign-related travel on non-commercial aircraft. Under HLOGA, candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives, their authorized committees, and their leadership PACs are prohibited from making any expenditure for non-commercial air travel, with an exception for travel on government aircraft and on aircraft owned or leased by the candidate or an immediate family member of the candidate. HLOGA also specified new reimbursement rates that Senate, presidential and vice-presidential candidates and their authorized committees must pay when making expenditures for flights aboard non-commercial aircraft. Rules governing the use of non-commercial aircraft by “campaign travelers” are described below.
Commission regulations define the term "campaign traveler" as any individual traveling in connection with an election for federal office on behalf of a candidate or political committee, and candidates who travel on behalf of their own campaigns. The term campaign traveler also includes any member of the news media traveling with a candidate. Candidates are only considered campaign travelers when they are traveling in connection with an election for federal office. This term does not include Members of Congress when they engage in personal travel or any other travel that is not in connection with an election for federal office.
Presidential, vice-presidential and Senate candidate travel
Candidates for President, Vice-President and the Senate pay the pro rata share of the fair market value on non-commercial flights. The pro rata share is determined by dividing the fair market value of the normal and usual charter fare or rental charge for a comparable aircraft of comparable size by the number of campaign travelers flying on behalf of each candidate on the flight. The pro rata share is calculated based on the number of candidates represented on a flight, regardless of whether the individual candidate is actually present on the flight. A candidate is represented on a flight if a person is traveling on behalf of that candidate or the candidate’s authorized committee.
Travel on behalf of leadership PACs of Senate, presidential and vice-presidential candidates
For non-commercial travel on behalf of leadership PACs of Senate, presidential and vice-presidential candidates, the reimbursement for that travel is the responsibility of the committee on whose behalf the travel occurs. The reimbursement rates are:
- The lowest unrestricted and non-discounted first-class airfare in the case of travel between cities served by regularly scheduled first-class commercial airline service;
- The lowest unrestricted and non-discounted coach airfare in the case of travel between a city served by regularly scheduled coach commercial airline service, but not regularly scheduled first-class commercial airline service, and a city served by regularly scheduled coach commercial airline service (with or without first-class commercial airline service); or
- The normal and usual charter fare or rental charge for a comparable commercial aircraft of sufficient size to accommodate all campaign travelers and security personnel, if applicable, in the case of travel to or from a city not served by regularly scheduled commercial airline service.
To avoid the receipt of an in-kind contribution, the committee must reimburse the service provider no later than seven calendar days after the date the flight began.
Travel on behalf of House candidates and House leadership PACs
House candidates, individuals traveling on behalf of House candidates, their authorized committees, or the leadership PACs of House candidates are generally prohibited from engaging in non-commercial campaign travel on aircraft. This prohibition cannot be avoided by payments to the service provider, even if the payments derive from the personal funds of a House candidate.
Travel on behalf of other committees
The reimbursement rate structure for campaign travelers who are traveling on behalf of political party committees, separate segregated funds (SSFs), nonconnected committees and certain leadership PACs is the same reimbursement rate structure described previously in the section "Travel on behalf of Leadership PACs of Senate, presidential and vice presidential candidates."
Aircraft owned or leased by candidate or immediate family
Expenditures are allowed for travel aboard aircraft that are "owned or leased" by a candidate or a candidate’s immediate family, including an aircraft owned or leased by any entity in which the candidate or a member of the candidate’s immediate family has an ownership interest provided that:
- The entity is not a public corporation, and
- The use of the aircraft is not more than the candidate’s or immediate family member’s proportionate share of ownership allows.
However, if the candidate seeks to avoid receiving an in-kind contribution from the service provider (candidates, members of their immediate family or entities in which either owns an interest) for the candidate’s use of the aircraft, the candidate must reimburse the service provider. Although federal candidates may make unlimited contributions to their campaigns, such contributions must be reported by their authorized committees. Contributions from all other persons, including family members, are subject to the applicable amount limits and source prohibitions.
In instances where the candidate uses the aircraft within the limits of a shared-ownership arrangement, the candidate’s committee must reimburse the candidate, the candidate’s immediate family member or the administrator of the aircraft for the applicable rate charged to the candidate, immediate family member, or corporation or other entity through which the aircraft is ultimately available to the candidate. Alternatively, the candidate's committee may treat this amount as a personal contribution from the candidate if the candidate is the owner or lessee. House candidates are prohibited from exceeding the candidate’s proportional share of ownership interest in the aircraft. For Senate, presidential and vice-presidential candidates, the reimbursement rate would be based upon the pro rata share of the charter rate where the proportional share of the ownership interest is exceeded.
In instances where a candidate or a candidate’s immediate family member wholly owns the aircraft, the candidate’s authorized committee must reimburse the pro rata share per campaign traveler of the costs associated with the trip. Repayment must be made by the candidate’s committee in accordance with the normal business practices of the entity administering the shared ownership or lease agreements.
Other non-commercial transportation
For non-commercial travel via other means, such as limousines and all other automobiles, trains and buses, a political committee must pay the service provider the normal and usual fare or rental charge for a comparable commercial conveyance of sufficient size to accommodate all campaign travelers, including members of the news media traveling with a candidate and security personnel, if applicable. Payment for the travel must be made within 30 days from the receipt of the invoice, but no more than 60 days following the date the travel commenced.
Candidates and representatives of political committees may make campaign travel via governmental conveyances, such as government aircraft, subject to specific reimbursement requirements. Candidates, their authorized committees or House candidate leadership PACs must reimburse the federal, state or local government entity providing the aircraft at either:
- “Per candidate campaign traveler” reimbursement rate, which is the normal and usual charter fare or rental charge for a comparable aircraft of sufficient size to accommodate all of the campaign travelers. The pro rata share is calculated by dividing the normal and usual charter fare or rental charge by the number of campaign travelers on the flight that are traveling on behalf of candidates, authorized committees or House candidate leadership PACs, including members of the news media, and security personnel. No portion of the normal and usual charter fare or rental charge may be attributed to any other passengers, except for members of the news media and government-provided security personnel, as provided in 11 CFR 100.93(b)(3) and 11 CFR 100.93(e)(1)(i), or
- “Private traveler reimbursement rate,” as specified by the governmental entity providing the aircraft, per campaign traveler.
For campaign travelers who are traveling on government aircraft, but are not traveling with or on behalf of a candidate or candidate’s committee, the reimbursement must be equal either to the lowest unrestricted and non-discounted first-class commercial airline service that is geographically closest to the military airbase or other location actually used, or, for all other travel, the applicable rate from among the rates specified in 11 CFR 100.93(c)(3).
Members of the news media who are traveling with a candidate on government aircraft and security personnel not provided by a government entity must be included in the number of campaign travelers for the purposes for identifying a comparable aircraft of sufficient size to accommodate all campaign travelers.
A political committee must reimburse the governmental entity providing the conveyance within the time frame specified by the governmental entity.
When a candidate makes a trip involving both campaign and noncampaign stops, only the travel costs related to the campaign are expenditures. If, however, a candidate conducts any campaign activity at a given stop, that stop is considered campaign related, unless the campaign activity is merely incidental. In no case, however, may campaign funds be used for non-travel expenses that are not related to official or campaign-related activity.
If a candidate makes a noncampaign speech at a civic association luncheon and, on the way out, chats with a few attendees about his campaign in response to their questions, the conversation into a campaign-related event. On the other hand, if a candidate flew into a city for a trip that involved both personal vacation days and days spent campaigning, an incremental approach to paying for the trip would be required, to avoid the campaign paying the lodging, subsistence and sightseeing expenses on the vacation days—an expense that would be considered an impermissible personal use of campaign funds. Because of the non-incidental nature of the campaign days, the airfare would be considered a campaign-related expense.
Expenditures for campaign-related stops are calculated on an actual cost-per-mile basis, starting at the point of origin of the trip, including each campaign-related stop, and ending at the point of origin.
As explained, campaign funds may be used for mixed use travel; however, the committee must be reimbursed within 30 days for the entire amount associated with the personal activities (the amount over and above what the cost would have been had the trip/vehicle use been solely for campaign/officeholder-related purposes). Individuals other than candidates must allocate their mixed campaign and noncampaign travel expenses on a reasonable basis.
A candidate travels by plane from Philadelphia to Las Vegas for a campaign speech. While in Nevada, the candidate travels by plane from Las Vegas to Reno for a personal trip. The candidate then flies back to Philadelphia from Reno. To determine the candidate’s campaign-related travel expenses, the committee must create a fictional itinerary from Philadelphia to Las Vegas and back. Thus the campaign would derive the cost-per-mile of campaign travel from the commercial rate for a round-trip flight from Philadelphia to Las Vegas, and the candidate must reimburse the committee for the difference in costs between the fictional trip and the actual trip. See the explanation and justification for 113.1 at 60 Fed. Reg. 7869 (February 9, 1995).
On February 6, 2002, the Commission adopted an interpretive rule to clarify that the travel allocation and reporting requirements of 11 CFR 106.3(b) do not apply to the extent that a candidate pays for certain travel expenses using funds authorized and appropriated by the federal government. Candidates should consult with the House Committee on Ethics or the Senate Select Committee on Ethics regarding the use of appropriated funds for travel expenses.
Travel to and from Washington, DC
Costs for travel between Washington, DC, and the state or congressional district in which an individual is a candidate are not reportable unless paid for by the campaign (or another political committee) in connection with campaign-related travel.