ActBlue, a registered nonconnected committee, may not independently solicit contributions from the general public on behalf of separate segregated funds (SSFs). However, ActBlue may work directly with SSFs to solicit the restricted class of those SSFs' connected organizations for contributions designated for the SSFs.
ActBlue is a nonconnected political committee registered with the Commission that primarily serves as a conduit for contributions earmarked for Democratic candidates and political party committees. ActBlue wishes to expand its fundraising activities by providing contributors the choice to contribute to political committees (including SSFs) that support political principles similar to those promoted by Democratic candidates and party committees.
ActBlue proposes two different fundraising programs to solicit and receive contributions designated for a number of different SSFs. Under Program 1, ActBlue would solicit the general public for contributions designated for SSFs via its web site (including its blog and fundraising pages) and through e-mail to its own list. ActBlue would not have any contact with the SSFs or their connected organizations regarding the solicitations, and ActBlue would not be paid for its fundraising. Solicitations would inform potential contributors of applicable contribution limitations.
Under Program 2, ActBlue would solicit only the restricted classes of the SSFs' connected organizations, and would work directly with the SSFs in making the solicitations. (A connected organization's restricted class generally includes its executive and administrative personnel, stockholders and the families of both groups.) Solicitations made under Program 2 would be through a password-protected webpage of ActBlue's web site. Each SSF would choose the password for that password-protected page and distribute the password to members of its connected organization's restricted class only.
ActBlue would pay all costs associated with the solicitations in both Programs 1 and 2. Within ten days of receipt of a contribution designated for an SSF, ActBlue would forward each contribution to the intended SSF recipient along with a report containing all required information, which would include the contributor's name and the amount of the contribution.
The Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) and Commission regulations allow an SSF and its connected organization to solicit at any time contributions to the SSF from the connected organization's "restricted class," which includes the connected organization's executive and administrative personnel, its stockholders and the families of both groups. 11 CFR 114.1(c) and 114.5(g). Solicitations by an SSF or its connected organization beyond the restricted class are generally prohibited.(1) An entity acting on behalf of an SSF or its connected organization is bound by the same restrictions as the SSF.
Under Program 1, ActBlue would be acting on behalf of the recipient SSFs and their connected organizations when soliciting contributions designated for the SSFs. ActBlue would represent to the public that contributing to an SSF through ActBlue is the functional equivalent of contributing directly to the SSF. An SSF that continually accepts earmarked contributions and contributor information from ActBlue would not be able to claim that it was unaware that ActBlue is soliciting contributions on its behalf. Thus ActBlue is not permitted to solicit contributions from beyond the restricted classes of the SSFs' connected organizations under Program 1.
ActBlue may, however, work directly with the recipient SSFs and their connected organizations under Program 2 to solicit contributions from members of the restricted class only. Any costs associated with soliciting the restricted class that are paid by ActBlue must be treated as in-kind contributions to the recipient SSFs. 11 CFR 100.52(a) and (d). Such costs include a portion of staff salaries and expenses for web site development and maintenance. If ActBlue receives a contribution designated for an SSF, ActBlue must forward the name, address and receipt date to the treasurer of the SSF no later than ten days after receipt if that contribution is in excess of $50. If the contribution exceeds $200, ActBlue must also forward information about the contributor's employer and occupation. 11 CFR 102.8(b)(2). Contributions of $50 or less must be forwarded within 30 days. 11 CFR 102.8(b)(1).
AO 2007-27: Date Issued: December 17, 2007; Length: 7 pages.
1) A connected organization or its SSF may, however, make two written solicitations per year to non-executive employees, subject to certain restrictions. 11 CFR 114.6.