Advisory Opinion 2006-18: committee may promote candidate's book sales
A campaign committee may incur costs to promote the candidate's book without violating the ban on personal use of campaign funds because the candidate will donate all royalties to charity.
The Kay Granger Campaign Fund seeks to promote the candidate's children's book What's Right About America: Celebrating Our Nation's Values using paid committee personnel, the committee's web site and the committee's mailing list of e-mail addresses. The committee sought to advertise the book on the campaign web site and provide information on how to order a copy of the book. Paid committee personnel would plan book-related events, draft and send e-mails to the mailing list and handle any public or press inquiries about the book. The costs incurred by the committee would be more than a de minimis expense. The candidate and the publisher arranged for all royalties to be paid directly to 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, with the candidate reporting income and taking deductions to the IRS only as required and permitted by tax law.
A candidate's campaign committee has wide discretion in the use of campaign funds but neither the candidate nor any other person may use contributions for personal use. 11 CFR 113.1(g) and 113.2(e)(5). Personal use of campaign funds occurs when a "contribution or amount is used to fulfill any commitment, obligation, or expense of a person that would exist irrespective of the candidate's election campaign or individual's duties as a holder of Federal office." 2 U.S.C. 439a(b)(2). An author's book-marketing expenses exist irrespective a candidate's campaign, thus ordinarily a candidate's campaign committee may not use contributions to pay the expense. See AO 2006-7 (permitting the use of campaign funds to market a candidate's book on the campaign committee's website where the candidate retained the royalties but the committee incurred only de minimis expense). In this situation, since Representative Granger's royalties will be donated to two charitable organizations, the committee may promote the book using campaign funds because the candidate will not personally gain from the use of campaign assets for the expenses. See 11 CFR 113.1(g)(2) (providing that the donation of campaign funds to a charitable organization is not personal use).
The Commission expressed no opinion as to the application of House rules or tax law, as those areas fall outside its jurisdiction.
AO 2006-18; Date issued: June 23, 2006; length: 4 pages