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AO 2013-12 – Service Employees International Union Committee (SEIU) and the SEIU Committee on Political Education (SEIU COPE)

The Service Employees International Union Committee (SEIU) and its separate segregated fund, the SEIU Committee on Political Education (SEIU COPE), may use recorded telephone conversations to obtain and maintain restricted class members’ authorizations for payroll deduction contributions to SEIU COPE.

Background
SEIU COPE is registered with the Commission as SEIU’s separate segregated fund (“SSF”). SEIU COPE receives its contributions mostly through payroll deductions from SEIU’s restricted class. Currently, members of the restricted class authorize these payroll deductions either in handwritten documents or by electronic signatures provided via email or web-based communications.

SEIU and SEIU COPE propose to obtain and maintain payroll deduction authorizations from SEIU’s members through recorded telephone conversations.

Analysis
Under Commission regulations, a labor organization PAC may use payroll deduction or a check-off system to solicit and collect contributions from the organization’s restricted class (i.e., its executive and administrative personnel, members and the families of both groups). 11 CFR 114.1(j) and 114.2(f)(4)(i). The solicitation must include certain notices designed to ensure contributions are voluntary. See 11 CFR 114.5(a). Also, the donor must provide an affirmative authorization for payroll deduction. Federal Election Commission v. National Education Association, 457 F.Supp. 1102 (D.D.C. 1978).

The required affirmative authorization often takes the form of a donor’s signature. That signature functions as a unique identifier for the member and satisfies the regulatory recordkeeping requirements. 11 CFR 104.14(b). Those records must be preserved for at least three years after the related report or statement is filed. 11 CFR 104.14(b).

SEIU plans to call its current members, verify that the individual is within the restricted class, and then solicit contributions to SEIU COPE. The caller will inform the member that the conversation is being recorded and provide the statements required by 11 CFR 114.5(a).

If the member agrees to contribute via payroll deduction, the member’s consent will be stored in an electronic database along with the amount of the authorized contributions, the date of the call and the identity of the caller. The enrolled member will be provided with contact information in order to cancel or modify their contributions at any time. SEIU will maintain a record of the authorization in retrievable form and a recording of the telephone conversation for at least three years after the contributions are reported. 

In past advisory opinions, the Commission has approved payroll-deduction authorizations in a form other than the traditional written signature. (See AOs 2001-04 (Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Political Action Committee), 1999-06 (National Rural Letter Carriers Association) and 1999-03 (Microsoft Corporation).) In fact, the Commission issued a policy statement in 2006 to clarify its application of the Act’s authorization and recordkeeping requirements for payroll deductions. See Statement of Policy; Recordkeeping Requirements for Payroll Deduction Authorizations, 71 Fed. Reg. 38,513 (July 7, 2006). 

In this case, the procedural safeguards and recordkeeping mechanisms satisfied the Act’s authorization and recordkeeping requirements and led the Commission to approve SEIU’s proposal.

Date Issued: 9/12/2013; Length: 4 pages

(Posted 9/23/2013; By: Kathy Carothers)

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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; Email info@fec.gov. Greg Scott, Director; Alex Knott, Senior Writer/Editor; Dorothy Yeager, Production Manager