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AO 2013-08 – American Veterinary Medical Association

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) may solicit members of the Student American Veterinary Medical Association (SAVMA) to make contributions to its separate segregated fund, the American Veterinary Medical Association Political Action Committee (AVMA PAC).

Background
The AVMA is a non-profit membership organization with a stated mission to “improve animal and human health and advance the veterinary medical profession.” SAVMA is a non-profit membership organization of veterinary students, holding a tax-exempt status under a “group exemption” from the Internal Revenue Service, which recognizes SAVMA as a subordinate organization to AVMA.

The AVMA asks whether SAVMA members are solicitable members of AVMA, as well as whether SAVMA is considered an affiliate organization under the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) and Commission regulations.

Analysis
Members of SAVMA qualify as members of AVMA for solicitation purposes because they have a significant and enduring financial and organizational attachment to AVMA and because SAVMA is an affiliate organization of the AVMA.

Despite the fact that SAVMA members are veterinary students and thus do not meet any of the threshold requirements for full membership in the AVMA, they do “have a relatively enduring and independently significant financial or organizational attachment” to AVMA. 11 CFR 114.1(e)(3); AO 2003-13 (OPHTHPAC).

For example, SAVMA members are required to abide by AVMA bylaws and other rules and policies adopted by AVMA (See AO 2003-13) and have connections to AVMA’s two governing bodies, the Executive Board and the House of Delegates. The President and President-Elect of SAVMA’s executive board are delegates in the AVMA House of Delegates. The President also attends AVMA executive board meetings, although without voting power. SAVMA members are eligible to participate in AVMA group health, professional liability, and life insurance programs, and may access “members only” pages of the AVMA website, which demonstrates financial attachment to AVMA. See also AO 2011-08 (American Society of Anesthesiologists).

The above-mentioned attachments are enduring as well: more than 97% of SAVMA members convert to AVMA membership upon graduation from veterinary school, and more than 80% of veterinarians are members of AVMA. See AO 2003-13. For these reasons, the Commission determines that SAVMA members qualify as members of AVMA under 11 CFR 100.134(g) and 114.1(e)(3), and that AVMA may therefore solicit SAVMA members for contributions to AVMA PAC.

SAVMA is considered an affiliate organization of AVMA, under Commission regulations, and it meets at least three of the factors determining affiliation. First, AVMA participates directly in the governance of SAVMA, while a couple of AVMA’s officers are expressly authorized to act on SAVMA’s behalf. SAVMA’s bylaws also must correlate with AVMA’s bylaws and be approved by AVMA’s Executive Vice President. 11 CFR 100.5(g)(4)(ii)(B). Second, most AVMA members were once members of SAVMA, and more than 97% of SAVMA members become AVMA members. See 11 CFR 100.5(g)(4)(ii)(F). Third, AVMA had a significant role in establishing SAVMA and SAVMA still maintains its tax-exempt status through its relationship with AVMA. 11 CFR 100.5(g)(4)(ii)(I). Therefore, SAVMA qualifies as an affiliated organization of AVMA under the Act and Commission regulations, and as such, members of SAVMA qualify as members of AVMA under 11 CFR 114.1(e)(5).

Date Issued: August 22, 2013; Length: 6 pages.

(Posted 08/30/2013; By: Christopher Berg)

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