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  • FEC Record: Advisory opinions

AO 2017-10: Independent expenditure-only committee’s proposed activities would not result in coordinated communications

September 25, 2017

Citizens Against Plutocracy’s plans to ask candidates for federal office to sign a “Contract for American Renewal” would not result in coordination with those candidates.

Background

Citizens Against Plutocracy (the committee), an independent expenditure-only political committee (Super PAC) registered with the FEC, developed a “Contract for American Renewal” (Contract), a negotiable list of issues on which candidates would commit to take legislative action if elected. The committee will encourage voters via email, social media and their website to support candidates who sign the Contract. The committee will not discuss with a candidate how it will spend its money or communicate with any candidate about advertisements it may run or public communications it may make. After a candidate signs a Contract, the committee will cease communication with that candidate and the candidate’s campaign.

Analysis

Under the Federal Election Campaign Act, expenditures that are coordinated with a candidate or a political party committee are treated as contributions to that candidate or political party committee. An independent expenditure-only political committee “may not make contributions to candidates or political party committees, including in-kind contributions such as coordinated communications.”

In determining whether a communication is coordinated, Commission regulations provide for a three-prong test. First, the communication must be paid for, in whole or in part, by a person other than the candidate committee or political party committee. Second, the communication must satisfy one of five content standards. Third, the communications must satisfy one of five conduct standards.

Because the committee’s proposed use of the Contract (specifically, placing the Contract on the committee’s website or including the Contract in emails from the committee to current or potential supporters) would not constitute electioneering communications or public communications, its proposed activities do not meet the content prong of the coordinated communications test. As a result, the committee's proposed activities would not constitute coordinated communications.

Date issued: September 20, 2017; Length 4 pages

Relevant citations:

Statute:

52 U.S.C. § 30116
Limitations on contributions and expenditures

Regulations:

11 CFR 109.21
What is a “coordinated communication”?

Resources:

  • Author 
    • Paul Stoetzer
    • Communications Specialist