Providing transportation and services to media, Secret Service and national security staff
Generally, expenditures for transportation and other services provided to media representatives, Secret Service personnel, and national security staff are considered qualified campaign expenses and, with the exception of costs related to Secret Service and national security personnel, will count toward the overall expenditure limits in both the primary and general election for publicly financed presidential candidates. However, committees may seek reimbursement for these expenses, and may deduct reimbursements received from media representatives from the amount subject to the applicable spending limits.
Application to spending limits
Expenditures by an authorized committee for transportation, ground services or facilities (including air travel, ground transportation, housing, meals, telephone service and computers) provided to media personnel, Secret Service personnel or national security staff are considered qualified campaign expenses.
Unreimbursed expenditures for these costs and services provided to media personnel will be subject to the overall expenditure limitation for the applicable election. (In the primary election, they do not need to be allocated among the various state limits.)
Expenditures incurred for transportation or services made available to Secret Service and national security staff, less any reimbursements received, are qualified campaign expenses but not subject to the overall spending limit. In the general election, the GELAC fund may be used to defray unreimbursed costs incurred in providing transportation and related services to the United States Secret Service and to national security staff. (Note that the amount that the Secret Service and national security staff pay for such transportation and services is established by other federal agencies.)
Deduction of reimbursements from overall limitation
Committees may deduct the reimbursements received from media representatives from the amount of expenditures subject to the overall limitation. The amount of this deduction is limited to the actual cost of the transportation and services provided to media representatives, plus an additional amount of the reimbursements received from media representatives, representing the administrative costs of providing these services and seeking reimbursement for them. Generally, this additional deduction is limited to three percent of the actual cost of the transportation and services provided to the media representatives. However, a committee may deduct an amount in excess of three percent if it can document the total amount of administrative costs actually incurred.
"Administrative costs" includes all costs incurred by the committee in providing these services and seeking reimbursement for them. Thus, any costs that are not part of the actual cost of the transportation and services made available are administrative costs, regardless of whether they are incurred directly by the committee or by an independent contractor hired to make travel arrangements and/or seek reimbursements. If the committee uses a contractor, and the contractor charges the committee a fee for providing these services, the fee charged is part of administrative costs. The contractor's expenses and fees are not part of the actual costs for which the committee may seek reimbursement.
Seeking reimbursements from the media
In both the primary and the general election, authorized committees may seek reimbursement from media personnel for the costs of providing transportation and services to media representatives accompanying the candidate on campaign trips. FEC rules permit committees to accept limited reimbursement for these expenses from the media, and to deduct any reimbursements received from the amount of expenditures subject to the overall expenditure limitation. These rules also set limits on the amount of reimbursement that a committee can accept, and require committees to pay a portion of any reimbursement that exceeds those limits to the U.S. Treasury.
Reimbursements are limited to 110 percent of a media representative’s pro rata share of the actual cost of the transportation and services made available. The pro rata share is calculated by dividing the total actual cost of the transportation and services provided by the total number of individuals to whom such transportation and services are made available. For purposes of this calculation, the total number of individuals includes committee staff, media personnel, Secret Service personnel, national security staff and any other individuals to whom such transportation and services are made available. When seeking reimbursement for transportation costs paid by the committee by aircraft or other means of transportation and when the trip uses a government aircraft, the total number of individuals shall not include national security staff.
When seeking reimbursement, each media representative may only be charged his or her own pro rata share of costs. Everyone, which includes campaign staff and media personnel from other news organizations, must be included in this calculation. Thus, presidential campaign committees may not force the traveling press to absorb the costs of ground services used or consumed by local media, campaign staff, or others.
Presidential campaign committees have 60 days to provide each media representative traveling or attending a campaign event with an itemized bill for each segment of the trip. The bill must specify the amounts charged for each of the following categories: air and ground transportation for each segment of the trip, housing, meals, telephone services, and other billable items specified in the White House Travel Office's Travel Policies and Procedures. Payments are due 60 days from the date of the bill, unless the media representative disputes the charges.
Disposal of excess reimbursements
The committee must return any reimbursement received in excess of 110 percent of the actual pro rata cost of the transportation and services made available to the media representative providing the reimbursement. In addition, any amount in excess of the amount deductible that has not been returned to a media representative must be paid to the Treasury.
For example, if a representative's pro rata cost is $1,000, the committee can bill the representative for $1,100. Assuming the committee claims the standard additional three percent to cover its administrative costs, it can deduct up to $1,030 from the amount of expenditures subject to the limit. Any reimbursement received in excess of $1,100 must be returned to the media representative. Any portion of the remaining amount that exceeds the $1,030 that can be deducted from the spending limit must be paid to the Treasury.
The address for the U.S. Treasury is:
U.S. Department of the Treasury
Bureau of the Fiscal Service
P.O. Box 1328
Parkersburg, WV 26106-1328
Attn: Agency Cash Branch, Avery 3G
The committee must report disbursements made in providing these services as operating expenditures, and report any reimbursements received as offsets to operating expenditures.