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FEC Record : Advisory Opinions

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AO 2011-17 Use of Campaign Funds for Home Security Measures

Representative Gabrielle Giffords may use campaign funds to pay for additional security measures at her home. These costs are not considered personal use of campaign funds because the need for ongoing security measures would not exist were Representative Giffords not a federal officeholder or candidate.

Representative Giffords is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Arizona’s 8th Congressional District. On January 8, 2011, Representative Giffords was shot and severely wounded at an event sponsored by her Congressional office.  She has been undergoing medical and rehabilitative treatment in Houston, Texas, and, when she is not receiving treatment, resides in the family home in the Houston area.

At the request of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Sergeant at Arms, the U.S. Capitol Police conducted a security assessment of Representative Giffords’ family home and the general threat to her. The U.S. Capitol Police made several recommendations to increase the home’s security, including installing improved exterior lighting, improved locks and a duress alarm button. The estimated cost of the improvements is $2,200. Representative Giffords’ principal campaign committee, Giffords for Congress, asks whether it may use campaign funds to pay the costs of installing the recommended security measures to Representative Giffords’ home.

Under the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) and Commission regulations, contributions accepted by a candidate may not be converted to personal use by any person. 2 U.S.C. §439a(b)(1); 11 CFR 113.2(e). Conversion to personal use occurs when a contribution or amount is used to fulfill any commitment, obligation or expense of a person that would exist irrespective of a candidate’s campaign or an individual’s duties as a federal officeholder. 2 U.S.C. §439a(b)(2); 11 CFR 113.1(g). For items not listed in the regulations as examples of personal use, the Commission determines on a case-by-case basis whether an expense would constitute personal use.  11 CFR 113.1(g)((1)(i)(A)-(J), 11 CFR 113.1(g)((1)(ii); See also 2 U.S.C. §439a(b)(2)(A)-(I).

The Commission has previously stated that if a candidate “can reasonably show that the expenses at issue resulted from campaign or officeholder activities, the Commission will not consider the use to be personal use.” Explanation and Justification for Final Rules on Personal Use of Campaign Funds, 60 Fed. Reg. 7862, 7867 (Feb. 9, 1995).The Commission has also previously concluded that payments for, or upgrades to, a home security system, under circumstances similar to the present case, do not constitute personal use under the Act and Commission regulations. See AOs 2011-05 (Terry) and 2009-08 (Gallegly).

In this case, Representative Giffords was shot and severely wounded while engaging in her duties as a federal officeholder. The Commission determined that the expenses for the security upgrades recommended by the U.S. Capitol Police would not exist irrespective of Representative Giffords’ duties as a federal officeholder or as a candidate for re-election. Therefore, the Committee may use campaign funds to pay the costs of installing the recommended additional security measures to Representative Giffords’ home, and the costs will not constitute personal use of campaign funds under 2 U.S.C. §439a(b).

Date: September 1, 2011; Length: 4 pages

(Posted 9/7/11; By: Zainab Smith)



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