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  • FEC Record: Advisory opinions

AO 2018-09: Committee may use campaign funds for legal expenses related to ballot access

July 2, 2018

The principal campaign committee for a federal candidate may use campaign funds to pay for legal expenses incurred in seeking ballot access in his upcoming congressional election.

Background

Paul Clements registered as a candidate for the House of Representatives in Michigan’s 6th Congressional district in July 2017. Under Michigan law, he was required to obtain a minimum of 1,000 signatures on his nominating petition, and to file that petition by April 24, 2018. On June 1, the State Board of Elections found that his nominating petition contained only 991 valid signatures, so his principal campaign committee, Clements for Congress (the Committee), hired legal counsel to “prepare pleadings to reverse” the state Board’s decision. The Committee asks if campaign funds may be used to pay for these legal expenses.

Analysis

The Federal Election Campaign Act and Commission regulations permit a candidate to use campaign funds for a variety of purposes, including “any other lawful purpose” that does not constitute conversion of campaign funds to personal use. Personal use occurs when campaign funds are used to fulfill any expense that would exist irrespective of the candidate’s campaign for federal office or duties as a federal officeholder. Because Mr. Clements’s legal expenses are directly related to his campaign and would not exist irrespective of his candidacy, the Commission concluded that the Committee may use campaign funds to pay them.

Date issued: June 28, 2018; length: 3 pages

Citations

Regulations

11 CFR 113.1(g)
Definition of personal use

Resources

  • Author 
    • Christopher Berg
    • Communications Specialist