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  • FEC Record: Advisory opinions

AO 2011-12: Fundraising by candidates, officeholders and party officials for independent expenditure-only political committees

August 1, 2011

Federal candidates, officeholders and national party officers may solicit only those contributions that are subject to the Federal Election Campaign Act’s (the Act’s) amount limitations and source prohibitions when they solicit contributions on behalf of independent expenditure-only political committees (IEOPCs). Moreover, federal candidates, officeholders and officers of national party committees are limited to soliciting funds up to $5,000 for independent expenditure-only committees where those funds are from individuals and other sources not barred from making contributions.


On January 21, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Citizens United that corporations may make unlimited independent expenditures and electioneering communications using corporate treasury funds. Citizens United v. FEC, 558 U.S. __, 130 S. Ct. 876 (2010). Shortly after the Citizens United decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that the Act’s contribution limits are unconstitutional as applied to individuals’ contributions to political committees that make only independent expenditures. v. FEC, 599 F.3d 686 (D.C. Cir. 2010). Consistent with the Citizens United and SpeechNow opinions, the Commission concluded in Advisory Opinion (AO) 2010-11 (Commonsense Ten) that IEOPCs may solicit and accept unlimited contributions from corporations, labor organizations, political committees and individuals, but must follow the Act’s registration and reporting requirements.

In accordance with AO 2010-11 (Commonsense Ten), Majority PAC, formerly known as Commonsense Ten, and House Majority PAC (the Committees) registered with the Commission as IEOPCs. The Committees asked the Commission whether federal officeholders, candidates and officers of national party committees may solicit unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations and labor organizations on the Committees’ behalf. The Committees also asked if federal officeholders and candidates, and officers of national party committees, may participate in fundraisers at which unlimited individual, corporate and labor organization contributions will be solicited.


The Commission found that federal officeholders, candidates and officers of national party committees may not solicit unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations or labor organizations on the Committees’  behalf.

The Commission noted that Section 441i limits federal officeholders and candidates to soliciting funds for a federal election within the Act’s limitations and prohibitions. 2 U.S.C. § 441i(e)(1)(A). Section 441i also prohibits national party committees and their officers from soliciting funds that are outside the Act’s limitations and prohibitions. 2 U.S.C. § 441i(a)(1). Since neither Citizens United nor SpeechNow disturbed Section 441i, federal candidates, officeholders and national party committee officers are prohibited from raising funds that are outside the limitations and prohibitions of the Act for IEOPCs.

Additionally, the Act limits contributions by any person to any other political committee to $5,000 per calendar year. 2 U.S.C. §441a(a)(1)(C). Therefore, federal candidates, officeholders and national party committee officers are limited to soliciting $5,000 per year for any political committee that is neither an authorized committee nor party committee.

Finally, the Commission noted that federal candidates, officeholders and national party committee officers cannot solicit contributions from sources prohibited by the Act from making contributions, including corporations, labor organizations, federal government contractors, national banks and foreign nationals. 2 U.S.C. §§ 441b(a), 441c and 441e.

Thus, federal officeholders and candidates, and officers of national party committees, may only solicit up to $5,000 from individuals and federal political action committees on behalf of an IEOPC.

Regarding the Committees’ second question, the Commission found that federal officeholders and candidates and officers of national party committees, may attend, speak at or be featured guests at fundraisers for the Committees, at which unlimited individual, corporate and labor organization contributions will be solicited, so long as the officeholders, candidates and officers of national party committees restrict any solicitations they make to funds subject to limitations, prohibitions and reporting requirements of the Act. 11 CFR 300.64(b).

The Commission enacted new rules in April 2010 that allow federal candidates or officeholders to attend, speak at or be a featured guest at such a fundraising event. The new rules do not allow a federal candidate to solicit any funds that are not subject to the limitations, prohibitions and reporting requirements of the Act. 11 CFR 300.64(b). Rather a federal candidate or officeholder who solicits at such an event must limit any solicitation to funds that comply with the amount limitations and source prohibitions of the Act. 11 CFR 300.64(b).

AO 2011-12: Date issued: June 30, 2011; Length: 5 pages.

  • Author 
    • Stephanie Caccomo