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FEC Record: Advisory Opinions

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AO 2012-05 Campaign Committee's Donation to Charity

The Tom Lantos for Congress Committee (the Committee), the principal campaign committee of the late Congressman Tom Lantos, may donate the balance of its funds to the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice (the Foundation).


Representative Lantos passed away in 2008, having spent 27 years in the U.S. Congress. The Foundation is a public charity established in 2008 to “continue the late [Congressman Tom Lantos's] work in advancing human rights.” Several individuals, including members of the Congressman's family and former staff, receive compensation for their work for the Foundation.

The Committee asked if it may donate its remaining funds to the Foundation, so long as the donated funds (and any income generated from those funds) will not be commingled with other assets of the Foundation, will not be used to pay any expenses that cannot be paid from campaign funds under the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) and Commission regulations, and will not be used to influence any election. See 11 CFR 113.1(g)(1)(i)(A)-(J)


Under the Act and Commission regulations, campaign funds may be used to make donations to a charity. 2 USC §439a(a)(3) and 11 CFR 113.2(b). However, campaign funds may not be converted to “personal use,” which occurs when funds are used to pay an expense that would exist irrespective of the candidate’s campaign or duties as a federal officeholder. 2 USC §439a(b)(2); 11 CFR 113.1(g).

In this case, the Commission concluded the Committee may donate the balance of its funds to the Foundation. Commission regulations state that the “donation of campaign funds or assets to an organization described in section 170(c) of Title 26 of the United States Code are not personal use, unless the candidate receives compensation from the organization before the organization has expended the entire amount donated for purposes unrelated to his or her personal benefit.” 11 CFR 113.1(g)(2). In the past, the Commission has interpreted this provision to allow campaign committees to donate to a charitable organization even when the candidate was a member of the organization's board of directors, so long as the candidate received no personal benefit. AO 1983-27 (McDaniel). Similarly, based on the information provided in this advisory opinion request, the Commission concluded that no benefit will accrue to Congressman Lantos as a result of the Committee's donation to the Foundation.

Date Issued: 3/22/2012; 4 pages

(Posted 3/27/12: By: Christopher Berg)



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