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AO 2012-34: Former Candidate’s Campaign May Give Unlimited Contributions to Super PAC

A former Senate candidate’s campaign committee may use its leftover funds to contribute $10,000 or more to an independent expenditure-only committee.

Background

Mike Haridopolos was a candidate in Florida’s 2012 senatorial primary, but withdrew prior to the August 14 election. He was not a candidate in the 2012 general election and does not hold any federal office. As of June 30, 2012, his campaign committee, Friends of Mike H, reported more than $1 million in cash on hand.

The campaign would like to contribute $10,000 or more to Freedom PAC, a nonconnected political committee that makes only independent expenditures (commonly referred to as a Super PAC). Freedom PAC does not make contributions to federal candidates or political committees. Freedom PAC also asked whether it may accept a contribution of $10,000 or more from Friends of Mike H.

Analysis

Under the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) and Commission regulations, candidates may use campaign funds for any lawful purpose—including making contributions to other political committees—but may not convert any campaign funds to personal use. 11 CFR 113.2. Friends of Mike H plans to use some of its funds to make a contribution to Freedom PAC, a registered independent expenditure-only committee. Based on the facts of the request, there is no indication that the proposed contribution would result in the conversion of campaign funds to personal use or any other unlawful purpose.

The amount of the proposed contribution will be $10,000 or more. Generally, contributions to nonconnected political committees are limited under the Act to $5,000 per year. 2 U.S.C. §441a (a)(1). Courts have held, however, that the Act’s amount limitations are unconstitutional as applied to contributions that will be used solely to finance independent activity. See SpeechNow.org v. FEC, 599 F.3d 686, 696 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (en banc); EMILY’s List v. FEC, 581 F.3d 1, 11 (D.C. Cir. 2009); see also Advisory Opinion 2010-11 (Commonsense Ten) (concluding that political committees may make unlimited contributions to independent expenditure-only committees). Consistent with these decisions, Friends of Mike H may contribute $10,000 or more of its excess funds to Freedom PAC.

Date Issued: December 6, 2012; 4 pages.

(Posted 12/13/12: By: Alex Knott)

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The FEC Record is produced by the Information Division, Office of Communications. Toll free 800-424-9530; Local 202-694-1100; E-mail info@fec.gov. Greg Scott, Director; Alex Knott, Senior Writer/Editor; Dorothy Yeager, Production Manager