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  • FEC Record: Advisory opinions

AO 2015-02: Matching SSF contributions with donations to foreign charity

July 21, 2015

The Grand Trunk Western Railroad Company – Illinois Central Railroad Company (GTW-IC) connected organizations may match individual contributions made to their separate segregated fund (GTW-IC PAC) with charitable donations to a Canadian registered charity.

The GTW-IC PAC operates a “charity-match” program, under which its connected organizations match contributions to the PAC with donations to a U.S. charity of the contributor’s choice. One such contributor has chosen the Taylor Birks Foundation (the “Foundation”), which is a Canadian registered charity. GTW-IC PAC asked whether its connected organizations could make a dollar-for-dollar matching donation to a non-U.S. charity, as designated by the PAC contributor.

Under the Act and Commission regulations, a corporation may use its general treasury funds to pay its SSF’s establishment, administrative and solicitation expenses, but must not exchange treasury monies for voluntary contributions. 52 U.S.C. § 30118(b)(2)(C); 11 CFR 114.5(b). A contributor may not be paid for his or her contributions through a bonus, expense account or other form of direct or indirect compensation. 11 CFR 114.5(b)(1).

The Commission has previously approved contribution-matching programs for charities operating under 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Matching charitable donations are permissible solicitation expenses under the Act. Also, a contribution-matching program is not a prohibited exchange of corporate treasury monies for voluntary contributions so long as the contributor does not receive in exchange any tangible benefit from the SSF, its connected organizations, or the charity receiving the matching donation. See, for example, AOs 1986-44 (Detroit Edison PAC), and 2003-04 (Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Citizenship Committee).

The GTW-IC PAC’s proposal is identical to those proposals previously approved, except that the charity operates under Canadian law, rather than U.S. law. The Commission approved the proposal, noting that donations to the Canadian charity do not implicate the Act’s prohibition on foreign nationals making any contribution or donation in connection with an election. 52 U.S.C. § 30102(a); 11 CFR 110.20(f).

Date issued: July 16, 2015; Length: 4 pages


  • Author 
    • Jonella Culmer
    • Communications Specialist