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  • FEC Record: Advisory opinions

AO 2019-02: Campaign may donate excess recount funds to charity or transfer to a national party committee’s recount account

March 29, 2019

The Bill Nelson for Senate campaign committee may dispose of excess recount funds by making a donation to a charity or by transferring funds to a national party committee’s recount account.

Background

In November 2018, the Bill Nelson for Senate campaign committee set up a recount fund for its general election recount efforts and multiple recount-related lawsuits. The campaign committee seeks to dispose of surplus recount funds by making a charitable donation (to a charity from which Senator Nelson would receive no compensation) or a transfer to a national party committee’s recount account.

Analysis

The Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) and Commission regulations define the term “contribution” and “expenditure” to include any gift, loan, or payment of money or anything of value for the purpose of influencing a federal election. Commission regulations expressly except from its definitions of contribution and expenditure funds raised and spent for recounts. Although recount funds are neither contributions nor expenditures, federal candidates may not raise or spend funds “in connection with an election for federal office” unless the funds are subject to the limitations, prohibitions, and reporting requirements of the Act. Therefore, federal candidates may establish a separate recount account—subject to a separate contribution limit—that may be used to pay for certain activities related to recounts and election contests. Activities paid for by recount funds “must have no relation to campaign activities,” and “surplus funds may not be used in any manner that would constitute a contribution or expenditure under the Act or regulations.”

The Commission concluded that the proposed disposal of surplus recount funds is consistent with the Act since neither the charitable donation nor the donation to the national party’s recount account would be made to influence a federal election. Therefore, the use would not constitute a contribution or expenditure under the Act or regulations. The Commission further concluded that the excess funds would be disposed of in a manner that is already permissible under the Act since campaign committees may make charitable donations and may transfer unlimited funds to national party committees.

Date issued: 03/28/2019; 5 pages

Resources

  • Author 
    • Zainab Smith
    • Communications Specialist