Number: AO 03-01-CD
Requested by: The Honorable Nancy Dahlstrom
Alaska State Representative
Prepared by: Christina L. Ellingson, Assistant Director
Date issued: January 31, 2003
Subject: Uses of a campaign fund surplus when appointed to the legislature to fill a vacancy. AO-03-01-CD
This letter responds to Representative Nancy Dahlstrom's January 28, 2003, request for advice regarding the legal uses of surplus campaign funds. Specifically, as a candidate for the House of Representatives, District 18 in the 2002 Primary Election. Representative Dahlstrom did not prevail in that election. The winner in that district was appointed by Governor Murkowski to fill his vacant US senate seat in Washington D.C. You were appointed on January 14th, 2003, to fill that vacancy. You have asked if it is legal to disburse your surplus funds to a Public Office Expense Term (P.O.E.T.) Account.
Yes, you may transfer your surplus balance up to $5,000, to a Public Office Expense Term (P.O.E.T.) account. Under these facts, transferring your surplus balance to a P.O.E.T. account is appropriate because it would fit within the spirit and intent of the law.
Campaign Disclosure Law
Candidates must disburse any surplus funds within 90 days after the general, special, municipal or municipal runoff. A candidate may transfer all or a portion of unused campaign contributions to a public office expense term (P.O.E.T.) account. "A transfer under this paragraph is subject to the following:
(A) the authority to transfer is limited to candidates who are elected to the state legislature.
(B) The public office expense term account established under this paragraph may be used only for expenses associated with the candidate's serving as a member of the legislature;
(C) All amounts expended from the public office expense term account shall be annually accounted for under AS 15.13.110(a)(4); and
(D) A transfer under this paragraph is limited to $5,000 multiplied by the number of years in the term to which the candidate is elected plus any accumulated interest ."
You were a candidate for the state legislature, district
18, in the 2002 primary election which was August 27,
2002. You did not prevail in that election.
· You have up to 90 days after the general election (November 5, 2002) to disburse your surplus funds (February 3, 2003).
· You have reported a $2,364.73 surplus balance on your last campaign disclosure report filed on September 6, 2002.
· The winning candidate, now U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski was appointed to replace Governor Frank Murkowski on December 20, 2002.
· On January 14, 2003, Governor Murkowski appointed you to the house seat for district 18, which is the seat you campaigned for in the primary election.
· You state that you have a surplus of $1,900 from that campaign that you wish to transfer to a P.O.E.T. account under AS 15.13.116(a)(8).
Prior to the 1996-campaign reform act, candidates were permitted to use their surplus campaign funds in any way they choose. Because candidates were "completely free to convert campaign funds to personal income" the legislature concluded that there was "a great potential for bribery and political corruption." (Chapter 48, Temporary and Special Acts.) To address the potential for misuse of campaign contributions, the legislature set out ways a candidate can spend surplus contributions in AS 15.13.116. One of the ways the legislature prescribed was the transfer of surplus contributions to a P.O.E.T. account.
Because you were a candidate in the primary election, you needed to raise contributions to fund your campaign. You spent contributions for expenses that were related to the campaign. You are now a seated legislator, serving in the same seat that you campaigned for in the primary election, and you have surplus campaign funds to disburse. You wish to disburse the surplus contributions by transferring them to a P.O.E.T. account. The money that is transferred will be used for expenses related to your service as a member of the legislature.
The statute limits transfer of excess contributions to a P.O.E.T. account to candidates that are elected to office. The obvious purpose of the limitation is to limit the account to candidates who will be serving in office and have expenses related to that service. Because the term "election" can be broadly interpreted to mean to make a selection or choice and because your disbursement is consistent with the obvious purpose of the limitation, we believe the transfer to a P.O.E.T. account is appropriate in your case.
Because you were a candidate for the office for which you seek to establish a P.O.E.T. account and because you are now serving in that office, you may transfer you surplus balance to a P.O.E.T. account.
The Commission approved the advice in this letter by an affirmative vote of 5-0 on February 24, 2003. 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 uponrequest at the Alaska Public Offices Commission. 907/276-4176.