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  • FEC Record: Advisory opinions

AO 2016-14: Libertarian Party organizations qualify as state party committees

November 3, 2016

Because they are part of the official party structure of a national party committee, and responsible for the day-to-day operation of the national party on the state level, Libertarian Party Committees of multiple states ("the Committees") all qualify as state committees of a political party under the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act).

Background
In a group of Advisory Opinion Request submissions, Libertarian Party Committees of 11 states (Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Texas) asked the Commission to confirm their status as state committees of a political party under the Act.

A "state committee" is an organization that, "by virtue of the bylaws of a political party... is part of the official party structure and is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the political party at the State level, . . . as determined by the Commission." 11 CFR 100.14(a); 52 U.S.C. § 30101(15). A "political party" is an "association, committee, or organization that nominates a candidate for election to any federal office whose name appears on the election ballot as the candidate of such association, committee, or organization." 52 U.S.C. § 30101(16); 11 CFR 100.15.

For a state party organization to qualify as a state committee of a national political party, it must meet three criteria: (1) the national party of which the state party organization is a part must itself be a "political party;" (2) the state party organization must be part of the official structure of the national party; and (3) the state party organization must be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the national party at the state level.

Analysis
The Commission applied these three criteria to each state party organization to determine if they qualify as state committees of a national political party.

  1. The Commission previously found that the Libertarian National Party ("LNP") qualified as a national political party (AO 1975-129), and the Libertarian National Committee ("LNC") is the national party committee of the LNP. The Commission found no factual changes that would alter that analysis.
  2. In determining whether a state party organization is part of the official national party structure, the Commission evaluates documentation from the national party. The Commission found that the documentation provided by LNC Executive Director Wes Benedict confirms that the 11 state party organizations are part of the LNP's official party structure.
  3. To determine whether a state party organization is responsible for the day-to-day operations of a national party at the state level, the Commission considers two factors: (a) whether the state party organization has placed a federal candidate on the ballot (thereby qualifying as a "political party" under 52 U.S.C. § 30101(16)); and (b) whether the bylaws or other governing documents of the state organization indicate it is responsible for the day-to-day operations of a political party at the state level.
    • Candidate on the Ballot. To qualify as a state committee of a political party, the state level organization must obtain ballot access for a federal candidate. 52 U.S.C. § 30101(2); 11 CFR 100.3(a). Each of the Committees assisted in placing the LNP nominee Gary Johnson as a candidate for President in the 2016 general election. According to FEC disclosure reports, Gary Johnson has received contributions or made expenditures in excess of $5,000 according, therefore meeting the Act’s definition of a "candidate." 52 U.S.C. § 30101(2); 11 CFR 100.3(a).
    • Day-To-Day Functions and Operations. In addition to placing a federal candidate on the ballot, a state party organization must demonstrate, in its bylaws or other governing documents, that it is responsible for the day-to-day functioning of a political party committee within a state. The Commission analyzed bylaws and governing documents submitted by each of the 11 state party organizations, and found that each state party organization was indeed responsible for day-to-day functions of a political party committee on the state level.

Two of the state party committees (Arizona Libertarian Party and the Libertarian Party of Maryland) had been previously terminated and had reformed as new committees. Therefore, the Commission, by applying the above criteria, reaffirmed that these new committees qualified as state committees of a political party committee.

Therefore, having each met the three criteria, the Committees qualify as state committees of a national political party under the Act and Commission regulations.

Date issued 10/27/2016; 8 pages.

Resources:

  • Author 
    • Isaac Baker
    • Communications Specialist
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