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  • FEC Record: Advisory opinions

AO 2010-11: Contributions to an independent expenditure committee

August 2, 2010

A nonconnected committee, established solely to make independent expenditures, may solicit and accept unlimited contributions from individuals, political committees, corporations and labor organizations. 


Commonsense Ten (the “Committee”) is a nonconnected political committee registered with the FEC. The Committee intends to make only independent expenditures and wants to solicit and accept unlimited contributions from individuals, political committees, corporations and labor organizations. It will screen for and refuse contributions from foreign nationals, federal contractors, national banks and corporations organized by act of Congress. The committee will not make any monetary or in-kind contributions (including coordinated communications) to any other political committee or organization and intends to disclose its activity on reports it files with the FEC. 


Recent court decisions have altered the landscape for financing independent expenditures. In Citizens United v. FEC, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the ban on corporate expenditures, holding that corporations may make unlimited independent expenditures from their general treasury funds. See Citizens United v. FEC, 558 U.S. ___, 130 S. Ct. 876, 913 (2010). Subsequently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that individuals may make unlimited contributions to political committees that only make independent expenditures. v. FEC, 599 F.3d 686 (D.C. Cir. 2010). 

Based on the holdings of CitizensUnited and SpeechNow, the Commission concluded that individuals, corporations, labor organizations and political committees may make unlimited contributions to independent expenditure-only committees, like Commonsense Ten. The Commission noted that it may update its registration and reporting forms to facilitate disclosure by these committees. In the meantime, the Committee may include a letter with its Form 1 Statement of Organization clarifying that it intends to accept unlimited contributions for the purpose of making independent expenditures. A sample letter was included as an attachment to the AO, and is available on the Commission’s website at ie_only_letter.pdf. Electronic filers may include this information in a Form 99

AO 2010-11: Date issued: July 22, 2010; Length: 4 pages.