The Commission requests public comment on proposed guidance for political committees regarding the descriptions of disbursements disclosed on FEC reports. The proposed guidance offers general rules and also lists specific “purpose of disbursement” descriptions that are typically acceptable, and others that are generally not. Comments on the proposal are due by December 4, 2006.
Under federal campaign finance law, political committees and other FEC filers must provide detailed information about certain disbursements, including a brief description of their purpose. 11 CFR 104.3(b)(3) and (4); 104.10(b)(4), 104.17(b)(3) and 300.36(b)(2)(iii). FEC rules require that the “purpose of disbursement” entry be sufficiently specific, when considered with the identity of the recipient, to provide a clear reason for the payment. FEC rules at 11 CFR 104.3(b)(3) and (4) provide examples of acceptable and unacceptable descriptions, but the list is not exhaustive.
In reviewing reports, the Commission’s Reports Analysis and Audit Divisions often encounter “purpose of disbursement” entries that do not match the terms in either of the lists provided in the Commission’s regulations. Therefore, in order to provide further guidance to filers and to encourage consistency between filers, the Commission is publishing lists of additional generally acceptable and generally unacceptable descriptions. The Commission also suggests a rule of thumb to consider when disclosing the purpose of a disbursement: “Could a person not associated with the committee easily discern why the disbursement was made when reading the name of the recipient and the purpose?”
The Commission asks that members of the regulated community and other interested persons submit comments on this proposal either by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, by fax to (202) 219-3923 followed by a paper copy, or in written form to the Federal Election Commission, 999 E St. NW, Washington, DC, 20463, ATTN: Amy Rothstein. The Commission strongly encourages commenters to use electronic mail to ensure timely receipt and consideration. The proposed guidance is available online at http://transition.fec.gov/law/policy/disbursement_purpose.pdf. For more information, please contact Debbie Chacona, the FEC Reports Analysis Division Branch Chief for the Party/Non-Party Branch at 202-694-1130.