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  • FEC Record: Advisory opinions

AO 2007-30: Matching credit card contributions under public funding program

January 2, 2008

Contributions made to a Presidential candidate via credit card over the Internet and verified using the credit card's security code and either the contributor's street address or zip code may be matchable under the Presidential Primary Matching Payment Account Act (the Matching Payment Act). This verification procedure is sufficient to meet the requirements of FEC regulations, particularly when combined with the Dodd Campaign's existing data collection and required contributor affirmations.

Background

When accepting credit card contributions via the Internet, Senator Chris Dodd's Presidential campaign committee (1), Chris Dodd for President, Inc., requires contributors to provide their name, credit card number, credit card expiration date, mailing address, amount of contribution and employer/occupation information, as well as the three or four-digit security code printed on the credit card.1 The committee forwards that information to its credit card processor, which validates the card's security code and either the contributor's street address or the contributor's zip code.

Analysis

The Matching Payment Act provides that if a candidate for the Presidential nomination of his or her party agrees to certain conditions and raises in excess of $5,000 in individual contributions of $250 or less from residents of at least each of 20 states, the federal government will match the first $250 of each eligible contribution. 26 U.S.C. §§9033 and 9034. In order to be matched, the contribution must be made by a "written instrument which identifies the person making the contribution by full name and mailing address." 26 U.S.C. §9034(a).

Commission regulations require that matchable contributions made by credit card over the Internet include an electronic record of the transaction created and transmitted by the cardholder, which includes the name of the cardholder and the card number. In order to be valid, Commission regulations require that the full name and card number of the cardholder who is the donor be entered and transmitted by the cardholder. 11 CFR 9034.2(b) and (c).

The Commission has not mandated specific procedures to verify the identity of an individual making a credit card contribution over the Internet—this approach ensures that the regulated community is able to take advantage of rapidly evolving technological innovations, so long as "necessary precautions" are in place due to the absence of any "direct paper transfers" in credit card contributions made over the Internet.(2)

Thus, while the proposed verification procedures in this request differ from those approved by the Commission in a past advisory opinion, AO 1999-9, and from those described in the Commission's guidelines for publicly funded Presidential candidates, it is an acceptable method of verification because it satisfies the identification requirements of the Matching Payment Act and Commission regulations. See 11 CFR 9034.2(c). Under the Matching Payment Act, a campaign committee must take steps to ensure that the person making a credit card contribution over the Internet actually owns the card or account on which the charge is made. The use of a credit card's security code provides adequate assurance that the person making the contribution is in physical possession of the credit card. Additionally, billing address verification helps to confirm that the person in physical possession of the credit card is also the owner of the credit card by soliciting and verifying personal information about the card's owner. These procedures, in conjunction with the Committee's collection of personal information about the contributor and its requirement that the contributor provide specific affirmations,(3) are sufficient to allay concerns that the contributor is someone other than the credit card owner. Thus, contributions made under these verification procedures may be matchable, assuming they are otherwise in compliance with the applicable statutes and Commission regulations.

AO 2007-30: Date Issued: November 29, 2007; length: 5 pages


1) As of November 27, 2007, Chris Dodd for President, Inc. has been certified by the Commission as eligible to receive matching funds.

2) See "Matching Credit Card and Debt Card Contributions," 64 Fed. Reg, 32395.

3) The Committee requires the contributor to affirm he or she is not a federal government contractor or a foreign national who lacks permanent resident status in the United States and that the contribution is made from his or her own funds, on a personal credit or debit card for which he or she has the legal obligation to pay, and is made neither on a corporate or business entity card nor on the card of another, and is not made from the general treasury funds of a corporation, labor organization or national bank.

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