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AO 2012-06 Conversion of a Candidate's Campaign Committee to a Nonconnected Committee
Governor Rick Perry’s principal campaign committee for the 2012 Presidential election (RickPerry.org) may convert to a nonconnected committee and use its remaining primary funds to finance the activities of the new nonconnected committee. However, the Commission could not approve a response by the required four affirmative votes regarding whether it is permissible for Governor Perry’s campaign committee to obtain authorization from contributors to redesignate contributions that were made for the general election to the new nonconnected committee or to redesignate those contributions to Governor Perry’s state campaign committee.
RickPerry.org (the Committee) is Governor Perry’s principal campaign committee for the 2012 Presidential election. Governor Perry sought the Republican nomination for President until January 19, 2012, when he suspended his campaign. Prior to the suspension of his campaign, the Committee had accepted approximately $270,000 in contributions that were designated for the general election. These funds were maintained in a bank account that was separate from those funds received and used for primary election expenses.
The Committee now proposes to convert from a principal campaign committee to a nonconnected committee and to use the funds remaining in its primary election account to finance its activities as a nonconnected committee.
The Committee also asks whether it is permissible to obtain redesignations of the general election contributions to be used by the nonconnected committee, or, alternatively, whether contributors may redesignate their general election contributions to Governor Perry’s state campaign account, consistent with Texas law.
Conversion to Nonconnected Committee. The Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) and Commission regulations identify several categories of permissible uses of contributions that are accepted by a federal candidate, including “for any other lawful purpose.” 2 U.S.C. §439a(a)(6) and 11 CFR 113.2(e). However, the Act prohibits contributions that are accepted by a federal candidate from being converted to the “personal use” of any person. 2 U.S.C. §439a(b)(1) and 11 CFR 113.1(g). Personal use is defined as “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.” 11 CFR 113.1(g) and 2 U.S.C. §439a(b)(2).
The Commission has interpreted these provisions to permit candidates to convert their authorized campaign committees to nonconnected committees and to finance the activities of the nonconnected committees with contributions received by the candidates for elections in which the candidates had participated. See, e.g, AOs 1994-31 (Gallo) and 1988-41 (Stratton).
The Commission concluded that Governor Perry may convert the principal campaign committee of his 2012 Presidential campaign to a nonconnected committee by amending its Statement of Organization (FEC Form 1) and use the Committee’s remaining primary election funds to finance the new nonconnected committee’s activities. Should the nonconnected committee wish to qualify as a multicandidate committee, it may count the time that the Committee was registered with the Commission as a principal campaign committee and the number of contributions made and received by the Committee in determining whether it qualifies as a multicandidate committee. 11 CFR 100.5(e)(3) and AO 1993-22 (Roe).
The Act and Commission regulations also provide that contributions accepted by a campaign committee may be donated to state and local candidates subject to the provisions of state law, so long as the contributions are not converted to the personal use of any person. 2 U.S.C. §439a(a)(5), (b); and 11 CFR 113.2(d), (g) and 113.1(g). Accordingly, the Commission concluded that the Committee may use its remaining primary funds to donate to Governor Perry’s State campaign committee, subject to the provisions of Texas law and the personal use prohibition noted above.
Redesignation of General Election Contributions. The Commission could not approve a response by the required four affirmative votes regarding whether general election contributions accepted by the Committee could be redesignated to the nonconnected committee, nor could the Commission approve a response regarding whether the Committee could obtain redesignations of the general election contributions to fund Governor Perry’s State campaign committee.
60-Day Timeframe. Since Governor Perry suspended his campaign on January 19, 2012, the 60-day period for issuing refunds (or obtaining redesignations, where permissible) would expire on March 19, 2012. However, on February 13, 2012, the Committee filed its advisory opinion request with the Commission, with 35 days remaining in the 60-day period. The Commission concluded that, while generally the filing of an advisory opinion request does not toll any statutory or regulatory deadline, because of the particular facts and circumstances presented in this advisory opinion, the Committee has 35 days to comply with the applicable rules for issuing refunds or obtaining redesignations, where permissible. See 11 CFR 110.1(b)(3)(i); 110.2(b)(3)(i), (b)(5) and 11 CFR 103.3(b)(3); see also AO 2008-04 n.3 (Dodd for President).
Date Issued: 3/28/2012; 5 pages
(Posted 4/2/12: By: Myles Martin)
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