The Commission is requesting public comment on a draft interpretive rule regarding the use of campaign funds by members of Congress for personal and residential security.
The Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) permits contributions accepted by a candidate to be used for “ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with the duties of the individual as the holder of Federal office.” The Act also prohibits the conversion to personal use of any contributions accepted by a candidate. 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 federal officeholder’s duties. Due to both direct threats against federal officeholders as well as a heightened threat environment experienced by federal officeholders as a group, the Commission has issued a number of advisory opinions in recent years authorizing the use of campaign funds for residential security systems on the grounds that the need for these expenses would not exist if not for the officeholder’s duties.
The draft notes that the Act prevents the Commission from issuing general guidance not tied to a specific transaction or activity through an advisory opinion. Noting the seriousness and immediacy of the current threat environment, the draft interpretive rule would serve “to provide guidance to all members of Congress on circumstances under which they may use campaign funds to pay for security purposes.”
If the draft interpretive rule were adopted, the Commission would interpret “ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with duties of [an] individual as a holder of Federal office” to include certain expenses incurred for residential security and personal security personnel under the conditions identified in the draft. The draft interpretive rule would not limit the use of campaign funds for security purposes to those identified, and any individual wishing to use campaign funds for a purpose or activity not covered by the interpretive rule could continue to submit an advisory opinion request to the Commission.
Members of the public are invited to submit written comments on the draft interpretive rule. Comments may be sent by email to the Commission Secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments are due by March 18, 2021.