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  • FEC Record: Advisory opinions

AO 2008-04: Publicly funded presidential candidate may redesignate general election contributions to Senate election within 60 days

October 1, 2008

The authorized committee of a Presidential candidate receiving primary matching funds may issue refunds or obtain redesignations to his Senate campaign (the Senate Committee) for contributions made in connection with the general election. Additionally, the campaign may treat the costs associated with issuing the refunds or obtaining the redesignations as “winding down costs,” which are qualified campaign expenses.


Chris Dodd for President, Inc. (the Presidential Committee) is the principal campaign committee of Senator Chris Dodd, who was a candidate for the nomination of the Democratic Party for President of the United States. When Senator Dodd became a candidate for President, his Presidential Committee began accepting contributions for both the primary and general elections, which were kept in separate bank accounts. Senator Dodd applied for federal matching funds for the primary election and was certified by the Commission on November 27, 2007, as eligible to receive such matching funds.

On January 3, 2008, Senator Dodd withdrew from the Presidential race and later filed a Statement of Candidacy indicating his candidacy for U.S. Senate in the 2010 election. The Presidential Committee issued refunds to some contributors upon request and later sent requests via U.S. mail to remaining general election contributors (who had not received refunds) asking them to redesignate their contributions to Senator Dodd’s Senate Committee. The Presidential Committee paid the costs associated with sending these redesignation requests with funds received for the Presidential primary election.


A candidate may accept contributions for the general election prior to the primary election, or in the case of a Presidential candidate, before the candidate receives his or her party’s nomination. 11 CFR 102.9(e)(1). The Commission has concluded that Presidential candidates do not waive their ability to participate in the general election public funding program by soliciting and raising general election funds before securing the party’s nomination. See AO 2007-03. A Presidential candidate who accepted general election contributions before becoming the party’s nominee may refund general election funds received from contributors, or under certain circumstances, request a redesignation for a different election. 11 CFR 110.1(b)(5) and 110.2.

Commission regulations generally limit the time period in which a committee may obtain a redesignation to 60 days and require that impermissible funds be refunded within 60 days. 110.1(b)(3)(i) and (b)(5). The Commission has previously concluded that the 60-day period begins to run on the date that the committee “has actual notice of the need to obtain redesignations… or refund the contributions.” In this case, Senator Dodd withdrew from the Presidential race on January 3, 2008, which caused the 60-day period for obtaining redesignations and making refunds to run. On February 26, 2008, the Presidential committee filed an advisory opinion request, 54 days after Senator Dodd’s withdrawal from the race. The Commission determined that Senator Dodd has six days (the balance of the 60-day period remaining after the advisory opinion request was filed) after the issuance of the advisory opinion to obtain redesignations and make refunds. Normally, the mere filing of an advisory opinion request does not toll any statutory or regulatory deadlines. Some Commissioners believe that the 60-day deadline for obtaining redesignations and making refunds should toll in Senator Dodd’s case because he presented a novel legal question regarding two potentially conflicting regulations, as was the case in Advisory Opinion 1992-15. Other Commissioners believe that tolling is warranted here only because on January 1, 2008, and for approximately six months thereafter, a period during which Senator Dodd requested this advisory opinion and it remained pending, the Commission was unable to render any advisory opinions because it lacked a quorum of Commissioners.

Additionally, the Presidential Committee may pay costs associated with refunds and redesignations of contributions received for the general election with funds received for the primary election because such costs would qualify as “winding down costs,” which are considered “qualified campaign expenses.” 11 CFR 9034.11(a) and 9034.4(a). Winding down costs include costs associated with the termination of a Presidential candidate’s efforts to obtain his or her party’s nomination, such as the costs of complying with the post-election requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act and the Matching Funds Act. 11 CFR 9043.11(a).

AO 2008-04: Date Issued: September 2, 2008; Length: 5 pages.