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  • FEC Record: Outreach

Redesignating and reattributing contributions

August 2, 2010

Candidate committees that receive an excessive contribution can remedy the violation by obtaining a redesignation or reattribution of the excessive amount. This article answers common questions regarding how and when to redesignate or reattribute an excessive contribution.

What is the difference between a redesignation and a reattribution?

A redesignation is when the contributor instructs the candidate committee in writing to use the excessive portion of a contribution for a different election than the one for which it was originally intended. A reattribution is a process by which the contributors instruct the committee in writing to attribute the excessive portion of a joint contribution to another individual.

What can I do if I receive an excessive contribution for the primary election?

If a candidate committee receives a contribution made for the primary election that exceeds the individual’s limit, the committee may request a redesignation so that the excessive portion of the contribution would be applied to the limit for the general election. A redesignation of the excessive portion is only possible if the redesignation does not cause the contributor to exceed the limit for the general election. When requesting a redesignation, the committee must inform the contributor that he or she has a right to receive a refund of the excessive amount. 11 CFR 110.1(b)(5)(ii)(1). The contributor must provide the committee with a signed redesignation within 60 days of the treasurer’s receipt of the initial contribution. 11 CFR 110.1(b)(5)(ii)(2).

What if my committee receives an excessive contribution drawn on a joint checking account but signed by only one account holder?

Any contribution made by more than one person (excluding partnership contributions) must include the signature of each contributor on the written instrument or on another written accompaniment to the contribution. 11 CFR 110.1(k)(l).

If a campaign receives an excessive contribution made via a written instrument with more than one individual’s name imprinted on it, but only one signature, the campaign may seek a reattribution of the excessive portion to the other account holder. 11 CFR 110.1(k)(3)(i).

Alternatively, the contributors may choose to reattribute the contribution so that a different amount is attributed to each contributor. However, a joint contribution must represent the personal funds of each contributor, because contributions made in the name of another are prohibited. 11 CFR 110.4(b). When the campaign requests a reattribution, it must inform the contributors that they may instead request a refund of the excessive portion. 11 CFR 110.1(k)(3)(ii)(A)(2) and (k)(3)(ii)(B)(2). Reattributions, like redesignations, must be made within 60 days of the receipt of the original contribution. 11 CFR 103.3(b)(3).

What are the procedures for obtaining redesignations and reattributions from contributors?

The first step is depositing the contribution, which must be done within 10 days of the treasurer’s receipt. If a contribution is not deposited within that timeframe, the committee must return the contribution. 11 CFR 103.3(a). The committee must then determine whether a contribution exceeds the limits, or, in case of contributions to retire debt, whether the contribution exceeds the committee’s net debts outstanding. 11 CFR 103.3(b). The Commission encourages, but does not require, campaigns to make this determination within 30 days of receiving the contribution, which allows campaigns enough time to request and receive a redesignation or reattribution within the 60-day time limit.

The committee should be prepared to issue a refund. When depositing contributions that exceed the limits or net debts outstanding for a particular election, the campaign cannot spend those funds, as it may be necessary to refund them. A campaign committee may maintain enough money in its regular campaign depository to make the refund should it need to, or the campaign could create a separate account for the purpose of depositing potentially impermissible contributions. 11 CFR 103.3(b)(4). The committee must also keep a written record noting the reason a contribution may be excessive and must include this information when reporting the receipt of the contribution. 11 CFR 103.3(b)(5).

The committee then asks the contributor to provide a written and signed statement. For redesignations, the campaign asks the contributor to provide written and signed documentation that the contributor chooses to have the excessive portion of the contribution applied to another election. 110.1(b)(5)(ii)(A). For reattributions, the campaign asks the contributor whether the contribution was intended to be a joint contribution from more than one person, and how much is attributable to each contributor. 110.1(k)(3)(ii)(A). Keep in mind that under all circumstances the campaign must offer the contributor the chance to receive a refund of the excessive portion.

Within 60 days of the treasurer’s receipt of the contribution, the campaign must either obtain the redesignation or reattribution or refund the excessive portion.

The campaign treasurer is ultimately responsible for ensuring the campaign acts in compliance with the regulations regarding redesignations and reattributions. 11 CFR 103.3(a) and (b).

Can my candidate committee presumptively redesignate an excessive contribution?

When a candidate committee receives a contribution from an individual or non-multicandidate committee that exceeds the limits, the campaign may presumptively redesignate the excessive portion to the general election under the following circumstances:

  • The contribution is made before the candidate’s primary election;
  • The contribution isn’t designated in writing for a particular election;
  • The contribution would be excessive if applied to the primary election limit; and
  • The contribution, as redesignated, does not cause the contributor to exceed any other contribution limit. 110.1(b)(5)(ii)(B)(1)-(4).

If the campaign receives an undesignated contribution made after the primary and before the general election, the campaign may presumptively redesignate the excessive portion to the primary election, but only if the campaign has outstanding primary debt. 110.1(b)(5)(ii)(C).

When presumptively redesignating an excessive contribution, the committee must notify the contributor within 60 days after the treasurer receives the contribution, and the committee must offer the contributor the option to receive a refund of the excessive portion.

Presumptive redesignations may only be made within one election cycle and are not an option when the contributor is a multicandidate committee.

Can my campaign presumptively reattribute a contribution?

Yes. A campaign may presumptively reattribute the excessive portion of a contribution drawn on a joint account to the other individual whose name is imprinted on the written instrument. However, this reattribution must not cause the contributor to exceed any other contribution limit. 110.1(k)(3)(ii)(B)(1). Just like with a redesignation, the campaign must notify the contributors of this reattribution within 60 days of the treasurer’s receipt, and the campaign must also offer the contributors the option of receiving a refund instead.

What kinds of records need to be kept regarding redesignations and reattributions?

The committee must keep documentation for each reattribution and redesignation to verify that it was received within the 60-day time limit for making redesignations and reattributions. Documentation for a redesignation or a reattribution must include one of the following:

  • A copy of the postmarked envelope bearing the contributor’s name, return address or other identifying code;
  • A copy of the signed statement reattributing or redesignating the contribution with a date stamp showing the date of the committee’s receipt; or
  • A copy of the written designation or reattribution dated by the contributor. 11 CFR 110.1(l)(6).

In the case of a presumptive redesignation or reattribution, the committee must keep a copy of the notice informing the contributor(s) of a presumptive redesignation or reattribution and offering the contributor(s) the alternative of receiving a refund. 11 CFR 110.1(l)(4)(ii).

Committees must maintain the written copies of contributors’ designations, redesignations and reattributions for three years after the report or statement disclosing such information is filed. 11 CFR 102.9(c). The committee must also maintain records of any writings from contributors that accompany the contribution and any notices the committee sends to the contributor. 11 CFR 102.9(f), 110.1(l).

Additional information

For additional information on reattributions and redesignations, contact the FEC’s Information Division at 1-800-424-9530 press 6) or 202-694-1100, or by email to

  • Author 
    • Isaac Baker
    • Communications Specialist