State of Alaska

Department of Administration

Alaska Public Offices Commission

Alaska Department of Administration, Alaska Public Offices Commission

AO02-03-CD

Number: AO02-03-CD

Requested by: Jeffrey Friedman

Prepared by: Christina L. Ellingson, Assistant Director

Date issued: June 11, 2002

Subject:  Fundraising in same calendar year for different seat on Anchorage Board

On May 14, 2002, Jeffrey Friedman asked the Alaska Public Offices Commission (Commission) for an advisory opinion regarding the legality of soliciting and accepting campaign contributions from the same contributors for two subsequent campaigns for seats on the Anchorage School Board.

You were a candidate for an area wide school board seat in April 2002. You did not prevail in that election. You state that it is your intention to again seek an area wide school board seat in the April 2003 Anchorage municipal election. You indicate that you will file your letter of intent and start campaigning as soon as you conclude your 2002 campaign.

You have asked if individuals and out of state contributors that have already contributed the maximum allowed to your campaign for election in 2002 to School Board Seat D may contribute, in the same calendar year, to your campaign for election in 2003 to another School Board seat. You have not asked about the provision of the law that allows you to carry forward a surplus balance to a future campaign. Staff will address that issue later in its analysis.

Short Answer

You may accept, for your 2003 campaign, up to the maximum amount of $500 and $1,000 respectively from individuals and groups in this calendar year even if they have already contributed the maximum amount allowed to your 2002 campaign for School Board seat D. In addition, you may accept the maximum amount of $3,000 in $500 increments from out of state residents, even if they have already contributed to your 2002 School Board campaign in this calendar year.


Facts

· You were a candidate for an area wide school board seat (D) in the April 2002 Anchorage Municipal Election. In addition, you were a candidate in the run-off election that was held on May 7, 2002. You did not prevail in either election.

· It is your intention to seek election for another area wide school board seat in the 2003 Anchorage Municipal Election.

· You wish to start campaigning for this seat as soon as you have closed out your 2002 campaign for seat D.

· You want to ask the same contributors that have contributed the maximum of $500 and $1000, as well as out of state contributors to your 2002 school board campaign, to contribute to your 2003 school board campaign in this calendar year.

Campaign Disclosure Law

Candidate is defined as "an individual who files for election to the state legislature, for governor, for lieutenant governor, for municipal office...."AS 15.13.400(1)(A).

Only an individual or group may make contributions. An individual may not contribute more than $500 per year to a group that is not a political party. AS 15.13.070(a),(b)(1).

Individuals, groups, non group entities, and political parties may make contributions to a candidate. AS 15.13.065(a).

A candidate may solicit or accept contributions from individuals that are not residents of the state as long as the amounts do not exceed $3,000 if the candidate is seeking the office of state representative or municipal or other office. AS 15.13.074(e)(3).

At the conclusion of a campaign, a candidate that holds unused campaign contributions may disburse these funds in one of several ways. One of the ways to disburse funds is to transfer all or a portion of the unused campaign contributions to a future election campaign. This transfer is limited to $5,000 for municipal campaigns. AS 15.13.116(7)(D).

Analysis

In 2001, Kenneth P. Jacobus asked a similar question on behalf of Richard Traini. (AO 01-06CD) The facts in that matter were different, as Mr. Traini was a candidate for the same Assembly seat in the same calendar year. He campaigned for a seat that became vacant in mid term and won. That same assembly seat was due to be open for election in April 2002. Mr. Traini asked if he could then, in the same calendar year, solicit and accept contributions from contributors that had previously contributed to his 2001 election that year in the same calendar year.

The Commission held that because Mr. Traini was campaigning for the exact same office in the exact same calendar year, the yearly contribution limits applied. Of course Mr. Traini was free to seek contributions from those who had not previously contributed the maximum amounts allowed under AS 15.13. The issue of a candidate conducting a subsequent campaign for a different seat in the same calendar year was not addressed in that opinion.

In your situation, you will be campaigning for a different School Board seat in the same year as your campaign for School Board, seat D. You will not be fund raising or campaigning for the same identical School Board seat in the same calendar year.

The Campaign Disclosure Law states that a candidate may not accept contributions until declaring his intent to seek office. AS 15.13.074(c)(1). It further states that a candidate may not accept contributions until 18 months before the election date. AS 15.13.074(c)(2). Further, an individual may not contribute more than $500 per year to a candidate. AS 15.13.070(b).

In opinions issued prior to the sweeping changes in the campaign disclosure statute, the Commission held that an individual could campaign for two offices simultaneously as long as they reported all contributions and expenditures. (See Terry Miller Opinion August 1986, Heather Flynn Opinion December 1988, and John Wood Opinion October 1989). A candidate could also accept contributions from the same contributor in the same calendar year for each office up to the maximum amount permitted by law so long as the campaign accounts are segregated and reported separately.

The law that was in effect prior to campaign finance reform in 1996 stated that a candidate could not accept more than the maximum allowable contribution of $1000 for each elective office. AS 15.13.070(a)(1). Now the law states "that an individual may not contribute more than $500 a year to a candidate."AS 15.13.070(b)(1). AS 15.13. 400 defines a candidate as being an individual that files for an election to any one of a list of specific offices. However, an individual who is a candidate is not prohibited from running for more than one office over the course of a calendar year. In fact, staff issued a letter of advice to a candidate running for two offices simultanously, interpreting the provisions of AS 15.13.116. Staff recognized that a candidate could receive contributions for more than one campaign at the same time, as long as the candidate understood that because the candidate would be receiving money for two separate campaigns in the same year, from the same contributors, the provision that is found in AS 15.13.116(a)(7) regarding carrying forward a surplus balance would not apply because both campaigns would be active at the same time.

Despite the statutory change in wording over the years, the provisions of AS 15.13.070(b)(1), concerning the maximum amount a person may contribute, when read in conjunction with the definition of a candidate found in AS 15.13.400(1), does not specifically limit a candidate from receiving the maximum contribution of $500 from the same individual for more than one elective office in a calendar year. Rather, staff's interpretation is that an individual may campaign in more than one election during a calendar year. Therefore, for the purposes of the contribution limitation, a candidate may receive the maximum contribution from the same contributor for each campaign.

This interpretation is supported by other parts of the law which create a series of checks and balances. There are specific times when a candidate may commence fund raising and when that fund raising must stop. AS 15.13.074(c). There are provisions that a candidate must keep each campaign separate and distinct, as well as a limit on the amount that is allowed to be carried forward to a future camapign. AS 15.13.116. While under past law, a campaign could continue from one cycle to another with no clear point of closure, that is no longer the case. All funds must be disbursed by ninety days after an election. AS 15.13.116. These safeguards built into the law help minimize the possiblty of a candidate violating the campaign disclosure law by receiving excess contributions.

Conclusion

Because the definition of a candidate is not tied to a specific office in a specific election, it is staff's position than an individual can fundraise for their election in more than one campaign in the same calendar year as long as it is not for the exact same seat or office. Therefore, you may accept additional contributions from contributors that have reached the $500 maximum limit for calendar year 2002 for the school board seat D election. You are also able to collect additional contributions from out of state residents up to the $3,000 limit in $500 increments.

The Commission approved the advice in this letter by an affirmative vote of 4-0 on June 21, 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.