AO 2022-01: Candidate may use personal assets to reward contributors
Joan Farr for U.S. Senate OK and Joan Farr for U.S. Senate KS (the Committees) may distribute copies of Farr’s book to contributors as rewards for their contributions because candidates may make unlimited expenditures from their personal funds, including making in-kind contributions from their assets.
Joan Farr is running for U.S. Senate in the 2022 primary elections in Oklahoma and Kansas. Farr owns copies of a book she authored, which was published in 2003. Farr and her Committees propose to distribute these books to contributors as rewards for their contributions.
The Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) defines contribution as any gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value made by any person for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office. Similarly, an expenditure includes any purchase, payment, distribution, loan, advance, deposit, or gift of money or anything of value, made by any person for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office. In both definitions, “anything of value” includes all in-kind contributions, such as providing goods or services without charge or at less than the usual and normal charge. The Act prohibits individuals from making contributions to any election, including in-kind contributions, to any federal candidate or committee which, in the aggregate, exceed $2,900. Commission regulations however permit candidates for federal office to make unlimited expenditures from their personal funds.
In previous advisory opinions, the Commission held that the distribution of a candidate’s books to contributors would constitute an expenditure because it is for the purpose of influencing a federal election. The Commission noted that Farr’s provision of the books without charge on behalf of the Committees would constitute an in-kind contribution to the Committees. Because Farr may make unlimited expenditures from personal funds, including making in-kind contributions of assets, Farr and the Committees may distribute copies of her book to contributors as rewards for their contributions without regard to contribution limits.
52 U.S.C. § 30101(8)(A)(i)
Definition of the term “contribution”
52 U.S.C. § 30101(8)(B)(i)
Definition of the term “expenditure”
52 U.S.C. § 30116(a)(1)(A)
Limits on contributions
11 CFR §100.52
Gift, subscription, loan, advance or deposit of money – contributions
11 CFR §100.111
Gift, subscription, loan, advance or deposit of money – expenditures
11 CFR §110.1(b)
Contributions to candidates
11 CFR §110.10
Expenditures by candidates