Veronica Escobar for Congress (“the committee”) may use campaign funds to pay for wiring and lighting costs necessary to install home security measures recommended by the House Sergeant at Arms. The Commission concluded that such payments are permissible under the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) and Commission regulations and would not constitute a prohibited conversion of campaign funds to personal use.
Congresswoman Veronica Escobar has received numerous direct threats to her safety. She has consulted with the Office of the House Sergeant at Arms about these threats, and they have recommended installation of a home security system, including cameras for a detached garage and surrounding her home. Congresswoman Escobar and the committee ask whether the Act and Commission regulations permit the committee to use campaign funds to pay for costs of wiring and lighting that are necessary for the operation of a residential security system at her home without such payments constituting prohibited conversion to personal use of campaign funds.
Under the Act and Commission regulations, contributions accepted by a candidate may not be converted to “personal use” by any person. Conversion to personal use occurs when a contribution is used “to fulfill any commitment, obligation, or expense” of a federal officeholder “that would exist irrespective” of the officeholder’s duties. In Advisory Opinion 2017-07 (Sergeant at Arms), the Commission specifically authorized the use of campaign funds for the installation or upgrade of “cameras, sensors, distress devices, and similar non-structural security devices, as well as locks, in and around a Member’s residence.”
While the proposed wiring and lighting costs do not fall within the category of “non-structural security devices” authorized in AO 2017-07, the recommended security cameras cannot function properly without the additional wiring and lighting. As a result, the Commission concluded that these costs constitute an integral part of an ordinary and necessary expense that may be paid with campaign funds under the Act. Therefore, the committee may use campaign funds to pay those costs without such payment resulting in a prohibited conversion of campaign funds to personal use.
Date Issued: January 22, 2021; Length: 4 pages