Requested By: Fran Ulmer
Prepared By: Jenifer Kohout, Assistant Director
Date: December 5, 1996
Subject: Disbursement of unused campaign
contributions by the
Lt. Governor prior to January 1, 1997
You have asked for clarification of the proposed advisory opinion to Representative Kott and Senator Lincoln regarding the disbursement of unused campaign contributions prior to January 1, 1997 and subsequent disclosure requirements.
Specifically, you indicate that you are considering transferring the balance of your surplus campaign funds to an office account. You ask whether references to "legislative office accounts" and related accounting requirements in the new Campaign Finance Law apply to the Office of Governor and Lieutenant Governor.
They do not. The accounting requirements of the new law apply to a legislative or municipal office account created following a disbursement under the provisions of the new law. AS 15.13.116. The statute is silent on transfers to an office account held by the Governor or Lieutenant Governor.
In your letter you indicate that prior to January 1, 1997, "[t]he options provided for surplus funds are (1) use in a future campaign; (2) transfer to an office account; or (3) take as personal income." Although these are the options raised by Representative Kott and Senator Lincoln, they are not the only options. Existing campaign finance law permits a former candidate to disburse his or her excess campaign funds in any of the ways set out in 2 AAC 50.400.
In particular, you indicate that you are "considering depositing the balance of [your] surplus campaign funds . . . in an office account." You are free to do so. The Commission, however, views such account no differently than a personal account. As a result, you must disclose the transfer on your 1996 Year-end report as a negative contribution on your schedule C and as a source of income on your annual Conflict of Interest statement.
In addition to these disclosure requirements, former candidates may choose to file with the Commission an accounting for all amounts expended from an office account created before the new law takes effect. Such a filing would demonstrate a candidates good faith; it is not, however, required by law. The accounting requirement in the new law applies to a legislative or municipal office account created when a candidate has disbursed unused campaign contributions to such an account under the provisions of the new law. AS 15.13.116(a)(9).
As you note, however, the new law does not address office accounts held by the Governor or Lieutenant Governor. As a result, while you are free to transfer your surplus funds to an office account before January 1, 1997, a successful candidate for Governor/Lt. Governor will not have that option following a subsequent election. The new law does not provide for disbursement of unused campaign contributions to an office account for Governor or Lieutenant Governor.
We hope that this opinion clarifies your options under existing campaign disclosure law regarding the transfer to an office allowance account prior to January 1, 1997. Your request is invaluable to our efforts to provide useful guidance on implementation of the Campaign Disclosure Law during this transition period.
The Commission approved this advisory opinion on December 5, 1996. 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.