Raising funds for legal and accounting expenses (GELAC fund)
Presidential candidates in general elections may receive public funds from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund established by the Presidential Election Campaign Fund Act (the Fund Act). In exchange for receiving public funds, candidates must agree to a spending limit on their "qualified campaign expenses," which the Fund Act defines to include expenses incurred by a candidate to further the candidate's presidential election campaign. In most circumstances, publicly funded presidential general election candidates may not raise private contributions to pay for qualified campaign expenses. However, Commission regulations allow publicly funded presidential candidates to accept private contributions and deposit them in a separate account, called the General Election Legal and Accounting Compliance (GELAC) fund, to pay for various legal, accounting, and other compliance expenses.
Use of funds
The GELAC fund may be used to pay for legal and accounting services provided solely to ensure compliance with the campaign finance law. In addition to legal and accounting expenses, permissible uses include expenses to defray the portion of the cost of payroll, overhead, computer services related to ensuring compliance with the campaign finance law, and other expenses detailed on this page.
Cost of payroll and overhead
A candidate may use contributions to the GELAC fund to pay 10 percent of the national campaign headquarters and state offices expenditures for a portion of the following costs that is related to ensuring compliance with the campaign finance law:
- Payroll (including payroll taxes); and
- Overhead including, but not limited to rent, utilities, office equipment, furniture, supplies and some telephone charges.
The candidate must first pay these costs with public funds from his or her federal fund account (see 11 CFR 9005.2). The GELAC fund may then reimburse the federal fund account in an amount of up to 10 percent of the payroll and overhead expenditures of his or her national campaign headquarters and state offices.
The candidate may claim a larger compliance exemption for payroll or overhead expenditures if the candidate establishes an allocation percentage for each individual who spends a portion of their time to perform duties which are considered associated with complying with the campaign finance law and keeps detailed records to support the derivation of each percentage.
Costs associated with computer services
A candidate may use contributions to the GELAC fund to reimburse the federal fund account for up to 50 percent of the costs associated with computer services including but not limited to rental and maintenance of computer equipment, data entry services not performed by committee personnel, and related supplies.
The candidate may claim a larger compliance exemption for costs associated with computer services if the candidate establishes allocation percentages for each computer function that is considered necessary for complying with the campaign finance law and keeps detailed records to support the derivation of each allocation calculation. The allocation must be based on a reasonable estimate of the costs associated with each computer function, such as the costs for data entry services performed by persons other than committee personnel and processing time. The candidate shall keep detailed records to support such calculations.
Other permissible uses
In addition to legal, accounting, payroll, overhead and computer services detailed in the previous paragraphs, other permissible expenses from the GELAC fund include:
- Civil or criminal penalties;
- Repayments of public funds based on audit findings;
- Soliciting contributions to the GELAC fund;
- Producing, delivering and explaining the computerized information and materials provided for an audit;
- Loans for qualified campaign expenses incurred prior to the expenditure report period or prior to receipt of federal funds, provided that the amounts so loaned are restored to the GELAC;
- Unreimbursed costs incurred in providing transportation and services for the Secret Service and national security staff; and
- Winding down expenses for legal and accounting compliance activities incurred after the end of the expenditure report period by either the candidate's primary election committee, general election committee, or both committees. For purposes of this section, 100 percent of salary, overhead and computer expenses incurred after the end of the expenditure report period shall be considered winding down expenses for legal and accounting compliance activities payable from GELAC funds.
Sources of support
Contributions to a GELAC fund are subject to the Federal Election Campaign Act’s prohibitions and the per-election contribution limits for candidates. In addition:
- Contributions may not be solicited for the GELAC fund before April 1 of the calendar year in which a presidential general election is held;
- Contributions that exceed the contributor’s limit for the primary may be redesignated for the GELAC fund; this may be done prior to April 1 of the election year;
- All solicitations for contributions to the GELAC fund must state that federal law prohibits private contributions from being used for the candidate's election and that contributions will be used solely for legal and accounting services to ensure compliance with federal law; and
- Contributions to the GELAC fund must be designated in writing for the GELAC fund.
Contributions made during the primary election matching payment period that do not exceed the contributor's limit for the primary election may be redesignated for the GELAC fund and subsequently transferred to the GELAC fund before the nomination only if:
If the candidate does not become the nominee, all contributions accepted for the GELAC fund, including redesignated contributions, shall be refunded within 60 days after the candidate's date of ineligibility.