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AO 2012-04 Justice Party of Mississippi Will Qualify as State Party Committee Once it Nominates a Federal Candidate
The Justice Party of Mississippi (JPM) meets some of the criteria of a state political party under the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) and Commission regulations, but it has not yet nominated a candidate for federal office. Once a JPM nominee for federal office appears on the election ballot as a “candidate,” JPM will qualify as a state party committee.
JPM is affiliated with Justice Party USA, a national organization that has not yet sought the Commission’s recognition as a national party committee. JPM’s responsibilities include raising contributions, assisting candidates with fundraising, conducting voter registration drives, holding a state nominating convention and nominating candidates for state and federal office. JPM’s bylaws set up the organization’s structure, procedures and governance.
The organization is run by a state executive committee and an executive committee from each county, Congressional district and some Mississippi municipalities. The state executive committee is authorized “to conduct and certify primary elections and canvass returns as provided by law, certify party primary candidates, establish federal election committees, and do all other duties conferred upon it by state and federal law.” The state executive committee prescribes and enforces party rules, regulations and penalties and also establishes standing committees to carry out the business of JPM.
The State of Mississippi recognizes JPM as a political party, which will allow JPM’s nominee for President to appear on the 2012 Mississippi ballot as a JPM candidate. JPM plans to hold a state convention in June 2012 to adopt a platform, select presidential electors and nominate candidates. Ross C. “Rocky” Anderson has announced his candidacy for president as a JPM candidate, and has filed a Statement of Candidacy with the FEC, and his principal campaign committee, Rocky Anderson Our President 2012, Inc., has filed a Statement of Organization.
The Act and Commission regulations define a “political party” as an association, committee or organization that nominates a candidate for election to any federal office whose name appears on the election ballot as the candidate of that association, committee or organization. 2 USC § 431(16); 11 CFR 100.15. A “state committee” of a political party is an organization that, by virtue of the bylaws of a political party, is part of the official party structure and is responsible for the day-to-day operation of such political party at the state level, as determined by the Commission. 2 USC § 431(15); 11 CFR 100.14(a).
A state party organization that is not affiliated with a national political party will qualify as a state committee of a political party once it meets three criteria: (1) the state party organization must itself qualify as a “political party”; (2) the state party organization must itself possess an official party structure; and (3) the state party organization must be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the party at the state level. JPM’s bylaws provide for an official party structure, establishing a state executive committee and district, county and municipal committees, as well as standing committees of the state executive committee, which operate consistent with JPM’s bylaws. Therefore, JPM meets the second criterion.
In agreement with the Justice Party USA, JPM performs the activities necessary for the day-to-day operations of the party within Mississippi. These include responsibility for the state party’s budget, fundraising activities, membership, voter registration, public education, assisting party candidates and their campaign committees, developing a platform and other responsibilities that the Commission has previously recognized as being a part of the day-day-day operations of a state party. See Advisory Opinion 2008-12 (Independent Party of Oregon). Therefore, JPM meets the third criterion.
The determination of state party status, then, rests on the first criterion. To qualify as a political party JPM must nominate at least one federal candidate who appears on the ballot as a JPM candidate. An individual is considered a candidate once he or she has received contributions aggregating more than $5,000 or made expenditures in excess of $5,000. 11 CFR 100.3(a)(1). While JPM has been recognized as a political party by the State of Mississippi, JPM has not yet nominated any candidates. While Rocky Anderson has indicated he is seeking to run for President as a candidate of the Justice Party, at the time of the Commission’s consideration of this advisory opinion it was unclear if he or any other individual would actually be a JPM nominee for federal office and appear as such on the Mississippi ballot.
Therefore, JPM will qualify as a state committee of a political party once an individual chosen as JMP’s nominee for federal office appears on the ballot and meets the definition of “candidate” under the Act and Commission regulations.
Date Issued: 3/1/2012; 5 pages
(Posted 3/9/12: By: Isaac Baker)
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