Requested by: John L. Steiner
Prepared by: Christina L. Ellingson, Assistant Director
Date issued: January 17, 2002
Subject: Chair of a Candidate's Campaign as Candidate for Other Municipal Office
On December 19, 2001, John Steiner asked the Alaska Public Offices Commission (Commission) for an advisory opinion. Mr. Steiner asked if AS 15.13, the Alaska Campaign Disclosure Law, prohibits him from serving as chairperson of an assembly candidate's campaign in Anchorage, while he actively campaigns for an Anchorage school board seat.
The short answer to the question is that the campaign disclosure law does not prohibit Mr. Steiner from serving as a campaign chairperson for one candidate while actively conducting his own campaign for another office. However, Mr. Steiner should be mindful that his dual roles as Chairperson of the Friends of Fairclough campaign and as candidate of his own campaign may create the perception that his campaign is receiving prohibited support from the Friends of Fairclough campaign.
The more that the Fairclough campaign overlaps Mr. Steiner's election campaign, the more likely it is that a member of the public may file a complaint alleging that the Fairclough campaign has made a non-monetary contribution to Mr. Steiner's election campaign. Staff cannot anticipate all of the specific circumstances that may arise in the course of the two campaigns and can only answer Mr. Steiner's specific questions.
Because Mr. Steiner has asked a series of questions, a question and answer format in this opinion, stating his questions with staff's answer immediately following.
Is there a fundamental legal bar or problem with me (Mr. Steiner) simultaneously being listed as chair of and actively working on one municipal campaign, while also actively campaigning as a candidate for another municipal office in the same election?
Answer to Question 1
Under AS 15.13 there is no prohibition against a person acting in the capacity of a chairperson for one campaign, while actively seeking office during the same election.
Under AS 15.13.400(1), a candidate means an individual who files for election to municipal office. An individual may become a candidate in one of two ways, either by filing a letter of intent with the Alaska Public Offices Commission, or by filing with the municipal clerk when the filing period opens on January 25, 2002.
If you ( Mr. Steiner) become a candidate, you may accept contributions and make expenditures intending to influence your election.
Would the answer to the first question be different in any way if I, (Mr. Steiner) listed as chair of the assembly campaign, were to serve in more of an advisory capacity rather than as active public participant in that campaign, while actively and publicly campaigning only for my own candidacy for the other municipal office?
Answer to Question 2 Assuming you are not the campaign chairperson, you may volunteer advisory services provided you comply with the rule governing professional services addressed below. The title of chairperson is significant in a campaign. The Commission has opined that the chairperson, whether s/he is just a figurehead or an actual working chairperson is one and the same for purposes of the campaign disclosure law. The statute states that all advertisements, billboards, handbills, paid for television and radio announcement and other communications intended to influence the election a candidate…shall be clearly identified by the words "paid for by"…. In addition, candidates and groups must identify the name of their campaign chairperson. AS 15.13.090. The purpose of the identifier is two-fold; to disclose to the public who is paying for the advertising, and to have a contact person should one want more information about that candidate for the purpose of supporting them. It is for this reason that the statute was changed in the early 1980's to read "Chairman" instead of "Treasurer." It was felt that a treasurer serves more of a bookkeeping and record keeping role. Candidates and groups found that by having the treasurer identified they were missing opportunities to garner support. A chairman is generally considered the manager of a campaign and has firsthand knowledge of the working details of that particular campaign. The public identifies a campaign chairperson as a point of contact and a source of information regarding the needs of their candidate.
In general, what further guidance do you have regarding the relationship between campaigns? Specifically have you guidance on candidates attending one another's campaign functions, whether informational or fundraising that are not co-sponsored? Must a candidate, for example, (a) carefully avoid any discussion of his own candidacy and (b) decline a contribution offered at an event sponsored and paid for by another candidate's campaign or supporters?
Answer to Question 3
A bright line must separate your activities for each campaign. Separating your activities between your dual roles as a candidate and as a chairperson of the Friends of Fairclough campaign may prove difficult. Even limited reference to a fundraiser or some other event may be enough to give the appearance of a non-monetary contribution from Friends of Fairclough to your campaign. The campaign disclosure law prohibits the use of one's campaign account for the purpose of contributing to another candidate. AS 15.13.112(7). With regard to your specific examples (a) and (b), yes, you should carefully avoid any discussion of your own candidacy and yes, you must decline any contributions that are offered. You may, however, arrange to talk or meet at another time or place to fundraise for your candidacy.
Under my current withdrawal as chair of the assembly campaign, may the assembly campaign use literature or signs prepared and paid for while I served as chair, including carry-over from the first campaign, and therefore accurately imprinted with my name as chair in the "paid for" notice? Will this pose a problem if I now run for office myself?
Answer to Question 4
You have stated that you have withdrawn as chairperson from Ms. Fairclough's campaign. You have asked if her campaign can continue to use literature or signs from a previous campaign. The answer is no. If the campaign literature and signs identified you as the chairperson and you resign from that position, they may not be used unless they are changed to identify the new chairperson. If the candidate serves as her own chairperson, she is required to identify a chairperson in her campaign materials. Because the campaign disclosure law allows candidates to be their own chairperson, the candidate's name need not be repeated in the identifier 2 AAC 50.306(b). If another chairperson is later appointed, the materials must include an accurate identifier. Staff is available to advise the campaign whether an identifier is correct.
Correcting an identifier is possible in several inexpensive ways. The campaign can place stickers with the correct identifier over the outdated identifier, or it can buy a stamp with the correct information and stamp all items that are not correctly identified. If the Fairclough campaign has the proper identifier on the campaign literature and signs for the current chairperson or, if there is no chairperson, has none listed, the Fairclough campaign should satisfy the requirements of 2 AAC 50.306(b) and avoid an "in kind" contribution to your campaign.
Were I to pursue my own candidacy, whether I were to resign as chair of the assembly campaign or not, would there be a problem with me continuing to do non-professional volunteer work on the assembly campaign (a) completely independent of and separated from any efforts I make on behalf of my candidacy or (b) at the same time I am working on my own candidacy?
Answer to Question 5
Once again, staff cautions candidates and campaigns to keep their campaign activities separate from each other to avoid the statutory prohibition against one campaign contributing to another. AS 15.13.112(b)(7). Therefore, you should not combine any of your campaign activities with those of the Fairclough campaign. See question 3. However, this does not prevent you from doing volunteer work on another campaign, as long as you are not volunteering services for which you normally would receive compensation. This means you would not be acting in your capacity of chairperson, but solely as a volunteer. You would be just like any other volunteer.
You state that you are a lawyer employed by the state and that you are forbidden from receiving compensation for legal services to others. "It would appear, therefore, that… any pro bono professional assistance I might happen to provide to any campaign is not something for which I would ordinarily be paid, and is not considered a contribution. Is this correct? ..."
Answer to Question 6
The provision of professional services is a contribution unless those services are related to the preparation of the reports and statements by the campaign disclosure law. By definition a contribution does not include services provided without compensation by individuals volunteering a portion or all of their time on behalf of a candidate…but it does include professional services volunteered by individuals for which they ordinarily would be paid a fee or wage.
AS 15.13.400(B). Subparagraph (ii) of this definition states that a contribution does not include
services provided by an accountant or other person to prepare reports and statements required by this chapter;… By profession you are an attorney. Whether you are self-employed or employed by the State of Alaska, you are still considered a professional who would normally receive compensation for your services. You may volunteer to prepare the reports required under AS 15.13 and give general guidance on the acceptance of legal contributions. Conversely, you could contribute up to $500 of legal services to a campaign. 1 You would not be able to volunteer your legal expertise in excess of that value unless the services are for preparing reports or providing guidance with regard to the legality of contributions.
1. At the time of the drafting of this opinion, the Federal District Court for Alaska has enjoined the Commission from enforcing the campaign contribution limit as it applies to the contribution of professional services. Kenneth P. Jacobus; Kenneth P. Jacobus, P.C.; Wayne Anthony Ross; Ross & Miner P.C.; and Scott A. Kohlahaas, vs. State of Alaska; and State of Alaska, Alaska Pubic Offices Commission A97-0272 CV (JKS)
In summary, while the campaign disclosure law does not expressly prohibit serving as both a candidate and as a chairperson for another candidate's campaign, serving in both roles creates a risk of violating the law's prohibitions and contribution limits. It is therefore critical if you choose to serve in both roles that you keep them separate.
The Commission approved the advice in this letter by an affirmative vote of 5-0 on March 6, 2002. The advice in this opinion applies only to the specific activity for which the advice was requested.
A copy of the original letter requesting the above advisory opinion is available upon request at the Alaska Public Offices Commission. 907/276-4176.