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  • FEC Record: Advisory opinions

AO 2021-13: Disability benefits are not earned income for candidate salary calculation

February 1, 2022

A prospective candidate’s disability benefits do not constitute “earned income” under the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) and Commission regulations, and therefore may not be used to calculate a salary from the candidate’s principal campaign committee.


Matthew P. Hoh is a Marine Corps combat veteran who has been classified as “100% disabled” by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and has received disability benefits for the past several years. Mr. Hoh intends to run for U.S. Senate in 2022 and expects to continue to receive those benefits during the campaign. He expressed interest in receiving a salary from his principal campaign committee once he becomes eligible.


The Act and Commission regulations prohibit any person from converting campaign funds to “personal use.” Commission regulations provide that salary payment from a candidate’s campaign committee to the candidate are per se personal use unless specific requirements are met. One requirement is that salary payments must not exceed the lesser of the minimum salary paid to a holder of the office sought, or the earned income the candidate received during the year prior to candidacy. A candidate’s “earned income” determines what, if any, amount of campaign funds could be used to pay the candidate a salary.

The Act and Commission regulations do not define the term “earned income,” but in defining “personal funds,” the Act lists “earned income” along with “salary” as income derived from employment and distinct from more passive forms of income. The Commission concluded that construing the term “earned income” as excluding Mr. Hoh’s VA disability would be consistent with the use of the term in the Act and Commission regulations, its commonly understood meaning and the purposes of the candidate salary regulation.

As a result, these benefits may not be used to calculate any salary that Mr. Hoh may receive from campaign funds.

Date Issued: January 27, 2022; Length: 6 pages



11 CFR 113.1(g)(1)(i)(I)
Salary payments by a candidate’s principal campaign


52 U.S.C. 30114(b)(2)
Prohibited use of campaign funds


  • Author 
    • Isaac Baker
    • Communications Specialist