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  • FEC Record: Compliance

Commission will review dormant committees' use of campaign funds

April 26, 2018

Starting in July 2018, the Commission will examine the use of campaign funds by dormant committees as part of its review of campaign finance disclosure reports, to ensure the activity meets the regulatory standards for permissible use. This additional review will apply to committees of former candidates who did not campaign or hold office during the previous two years for U.S. House of Representatives candidates or four years for U.S. Senate and presidential candidates. In a case where the Commission would like to clarify a dormant committee’s use of campaign funds, it will send a verification letter to seek additional information for the public record.

The Federal Election Campaign Act allows campaign funds to be used in connection with influencing the federal election of the candidate. Payments for expenses are generally permissible as long as such expenses would not exist irrespective of the candidate’s campaign or duties as a federal officeholder. In addition to defraying expenses in connection with a campaign for federal office, the funds in a campaign account may be used to cover the costs of winding down the campaign, including winding down the office of a former federal officeholder for a period of six months after s/he leaves office. Commission regulations include other examples of other permissible uses of funds, such as charitable donations and transfer of campaign assets to the candidate or a third party at fair market value, which are especially relevant to the committees that are winding down. A campaign committee that no longer receives any contributions or makes any disbursements that would otherwise qualify it as a political committee may terminate if it has no outstanding debts or obligations. The committee may file a termination report or request with the Commission, providing a statement concerning the disposition of residual funds.

Committee assets, including cash-on-hand, may not be converted to personal use. Personal use is any use of funds in a campaign account of a present or former candidate to fulfill a commitment, obligation or expense of any person that would exist irrespective of the candidate’s campaign or duties as a federal officeholder. Travel, meal, vehicle, and mixed-use expenses are permissible only when incurred for campaign purposes. Residual campaign funds may be donated to charity, provided no personal benefit accrues to the candidate as a result of the donation. In addition, a former candidate or officeholder may use campaign funds to pay for temporary storage costs when these expenses arise from the ordinary and necessary duties of a candidate or officeholder Residual campaign funds may also be used to pay the costs incurred for staff, headquarters, and supplies in order to file FEC reports. Additional information about permissible uses of campaign funds is available on the FEC’s website and in the Campaign Guide for Congressional Candidates and Committees.

As an alternative to winding down a campaign committee, a former candidate may redesignate the committee as a principal campaign committee for a future election or convert it to a multicandidate political committee. For more information about these options, please call the FEC at (800) 424-9530 and select option 5 for the Reports Analysis Division or option 6 for the Information Division.

Citations

Statute

52 U.S.C. § 30114(a)(5) and (6)
Use of contributed amounts for certain purposes – permitted uses

Regulations

11 CFR 113.1(g)
Definitions – personal use 

11 CFR 113.2
Permissible noncampaign use of funds 

Advisory opinions

AO 2012-06
Redesignation of candidate committee's general election contributions to nonconnected committee

AO 2012-05
Candidate committee's donation of campaign funds to charitable foundation

AO 2010-26
Use by retiring House member of campaign funds for storage expenses in preparation for move to home State

AO 2005-09
Use of campaign funds to pay travel expenses of a federal officeholder's minor children

AO 2005-06
Former officeholder’s donation of remaining campaign funds to charity

AO 2002-05
Use of campaign funds to pay for travel, including campaign, local officeholder and personal activities, of a federal candidate who is a local officeholder 

AO 2001-03
Use of campaign funds to purchase automobile for campaign purposes

AO 2000-37
Use of campaign funds to purchase and present Liberty Medals

AO 1997-01
Use of excess campaign funds to establish foundation

AO 1996-40
Contributions of campaign funds to nonprofit corporation

AO 1996-19
Use of campaign funds for travel to presidential nominating convention: wife and children

AO 1995-26
Campaign funds may not be used for club dues

AO 1994-20
Campaign vehicle donated to local government

AO 1993-06
Use of excess funds by former House Member

AO 1980-30
Conversion of 1980 campaign committee into 1982 campaign committee

  • Author 
    • Reports Analysis Division