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  • FEC Record: Advisory opinions

AO 2017-07: Use of campaign funds for security system

July 18, 2017

Members of Congress may spend campaign funds to install or upgrade a residential security system without those payments being considered an impermissible personal use of campaign funds.

Background

On June 21, 2017, Hon. Paul D. Irving, Sergeant at Arms for the United States House of Representatives, wrote to the Commission describing an increase in the number of daily threats against Members of Congress. According to Mr. Irving, the “new daily threat environment” and the challenge of investigating anonymous threats require that Members of Congress have residential security systems. Mr. Irving asked if Members may use campaign contributions to install or upgrade residential security systems that do not constitute structural improvements to their homes.

Analysis

The Commission concluded that Members of Congress may use campaign funds to pay the reasonable, fair market costs to install (or upgrade) and monitor residential security systems that do not constitute structural improvements to the Members’ homes.

Installing (or upgrading) and monitoring residential security systems are permissible uses of campaign funds since they are “ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with the duties of the individual as a holder of federal office.” The spending does not fall under the Act’s personal use prohibitions since the payments would not have occurred had the Member not been a federal officeholder or candidate, and the residential security upgrades would not have existed irrespective of their duties as federal officeholders or candidates.

The Commission limited its authorization to the use of campaign funds for installing (or upgrading) and monitoring costs of “cameras, sensors, distress devices, and similar non-structural security devices, as well as locks in and around a Member’s residence.” The Commission also noted that its advisory opinion applies only to Members of Congress based on the current threat environment. If the threat environment should diminish significantly, the conclusion may no longer apply. Federal candidates who are not federal officeholders may rely on previous advisory opinions on residential security systems if the relevant facts are indistinguishable from the facts in those advisory opinions.

Date issued: July 13, 2017; 4 pages

Citations:

Statute:

52 U.S.C. § 30114(a)(2)
Use of campaign funds for ordinary and necessary expenses incurred as officeholder

52 U.S.C. § 30114(b)(1)
Prohibited use of campaign funds

Regulations:

11 CFR 113.1(g)
Personal use defined

11 CFR 113.2
Permissible non-campaign use of funds

Advisory opinions:

AO 2011-17
Use of campaign funds for home security system

AO 2011-05
Use of campaign funds for home security system

AO 2009-08
Use of campaign funds for home security system

Resources:

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