State of Alaska

Department of Administration

Alaska Public Offices Commission

Alaska Department of Administration, Alaska Public Offices Commission

A097-24-CD

Number: A097-24-CD

Requested by: Bonnie Williams

On Behalf of: Fairbanks Convention Committee

Prepared by: Jenifer Kohout, Assistant Director

Date issued: January 20, 1998

Subject: Application of the Campaign Disclosure Law to Marketing/Advertising Plans
for the 1998 State Convention

Summary

You have asked the Commission to review the Republican Party’s (the "Party") marketing/advertising plans for its 1998 State Convention. The Commission has addressed the specific elements of the plans below. In general, however, the Commission concludes that because the State convention is intended to influence the outcome of an election, all the money collected by the Party in the course of marketing and advertising the convention is a contribution to the Party. The Convention Committee is prohibited from accepting contributions from corporations, companies, partnerships, firms, associations, organizations, business trusts or sureties, labor unions, or publicly funded entities. Thus, to comply with state law, the Convention Committee must modify its plans to ensure that it does not accept prohibited contributions.

The Law

Definition of Contribution AS 15.13.400(3) "[C]ontribution"

(A) means a purchase, payment, promise or obligation to pay, loan or loan guarantee, deposit or gift of money, goods, or services for which charge is ordinarily made and that is made for the purpose of influencing the nomination or election of a candidate, and in AS 15.13.010(b) for the purpose of influencing a ballot proposition or question, including the payment by a person other than a candidate or political party, or compensation for the personal services of another person, that are rendered to the candidate or political party;

(B) does not include

(i) services provided without compensation by individuals volunteering a portion or all of their time on behalf of a candidate or ballot proposition or question, but it does include professional services volunteered by individuals for which they ordinarily would be paid a fee or wage.

2 AAC 50.313. Definition of Contribution.

(a) [C]ontribution includes a payment, gift, subscription, loan, advance, transfer, deposit of money, services, or anything of value made by a person or group for the purpose of influencing an election.

(d) "[A]nything of value" includes facilities, equipment, polling information, supplies, advertising services, membership lists, mailing lists, any item of real or personal property, and personal services of any kind, the cost or consideration for which is paid by a person other than the candidate or group for whom the services are rendered.

AS 15.13.074(f) Prohibited contributions. A corporation, company, partnership, firm, association, organization , business trust or surety, labor union, or publicly funded entity that does not satisfy the definition of group in AS 15.13.400 may not make a contribution to a candidate or group.

Analysis

Background. You have provided the Commission with a proposed marketing/advertising plan for the 1998 State convention. That plan describes in detail the activities that the convention committee would like to undertake to market and advertise for the upcoming convention.

The campaign disclosure law does not generally prohibit you from undertaking the type of activities that you have proposed. The law, however, does prohibit you from accepting contributions from corporations, companies, partnerships, firms, associations, organizations, business trusts or sureties, labor unions, or publicly funded entities in the course of undertaking those activities.

As a state party group, the Republican Convention Committee may only accept contributions from individuals and groups. A contribution is defined by state law as "a purchase, payment, promise or obligation to pay, loan or loan guarantee, deposit or gift of money, goods, or services for which charge is ordinarily made and that is made for the purpose of influencing the nomination or election of a candidate." Because the party’s nominees will be selected at the State convention, it is an event intended to influence the nomination or election of candidates.

In a January 1997 advisory opinion to Kenneth Jacobus (a copy of which is enclosed), the Commission held that all activities undertaken by a political party are inherently to influence the outcome of an election. Thus, the Commission views all payments to a political party as contributions. The Commission concluded that the "primary function of political parties is to further political agendas by electing candidates." AS 15.13.400(4) supports this conclusion; it defines "expenditure" to include "any payment made for use by a political party." As a result, "the Commission has, over the years, required that political parties report transactions made in connection with such events as inaugural balls, luncheons, and annual district and statewide conventions."

Because the Commission considers all the payments to the Fairbanks Convention Committee to be contributions, they are subject to the restrictions of the campaign disclosure law. The Committee may not accept payments from prohibited entities, and it must report all contributions and expenditures in accordance with AS 15.13.040 and 15.13.110.

Responses to your specific questions. In light of the analysis described above, the Commission offers the following responses to your proposed marketing and advertising activities.

1. May the Convention Committee charge firms for trade booths?

As described above, the Committee may not accept payments from corporations, companies, partnerships, firms, associations, organizations, business trusts or sureties, labor unions, or publicly funded entities for activities related to the State Convention. Thus, the Convention Committee may not accept any money for trade booths. This, however, does not prevent the Committee from making booth space available to those entities who are willing to pay the Carlson Center directly for the usual rental rate.

2. May the Convention Committee invite industries to give seminars for a fee?

The Committee may invite industries to give seminars on specific topics but it may not collect a fee from those entities if they are corporations, companies, partnerships, firms, associations, organizations, business trusts or sureties, labor unions, or publicly funded entities.

3. May the Convention Committee sell advertisements in the convention programs?

No. As described above, the Committee may not accept payments from corporations, companies, partnerships, firms, associations, organizations, business trusts or sureties, labor unions, or publicly funded entities for activities related to the State Convention.

4. May the Convention Committee sell advertisements in information packages and registration forms?

The Convention Committee may place promotional materials and other information about local businesses in informational packages and registration forms being sent to party chairs for distribution to selected delegates and alternatives. However, it may not charge for that service if the entity is a corporation, company, partnership, firm, association, organization, business trust or surety, labor union, or publicly funded entity.

5. May the Convention Committee sell space on print, tv and radio ads to firm sponsors?

The Convention Committee may purchase advertisements to promote the Convention. In addition, businesses could buy their own conference related advertisements directly from newspapers, radio or tv stations. However, the Committee may not accept payments for logos or taglines from corporations, companies, partnerships, firms, associations, organizations, business trusts or sureties, labor unions, or publicly funded entities.

6. May the Convention Committee have firms underwrite convention awards?

No. For the reasons described above, corporations, companies, partnerships, firms, associations, organizations, business trusts or sureties, labor unions, or publicly funded entities may not underwrite convention awards.

7. May the Convention Committee sell banner space in main convention arena?

No. For the reasons described above, the Committee may not accept payments from corporations, companies, partnerships, firms, associations, organizations, business trusts or sureties, labor unions, or publicly funded entities for banners containing company logos to be displayed in the main convention arena.

8. May the Convention Committee sell space on Convention Committee letterhead as part of a "platinum" package?

No. As described above, the Committee may not accept payments from corporations, companies, partnerships, firms, associations, organizations, business trusts or sureties, labor unions, or publicly funded entities for activities related to the State Convention.

9. May the Convention Committee sell meal tickets to general public?

Yes. The Convention Committee may sell meal tickets to individuals in the general public. Payment for those tickets is considered a contribution to the party if the party accepts the money, then makes a separate expenditure to the food providers. This is true even if the amount of the ticket is equal to the cost of the meal. It is long standing Commission policy that the full purchase price of a ticket to a fundraising event is reportable as the amount of the contribution. As a result, the full ticket price amount is used in determining when the contributor reaches his or her contribution limit. This position was reiterated by the Commission in its advisory opinion to Kenneth Jacobus on January 31, 1997.

A contribution, however, does not result, if the Committee structures payment for meals so that the money goes directly to the non-Party food providers and is not deposited in the party account. The Committee might do this by having the food providers sell the tickets at the door or by requiring members of the public who attend to make their checks out directly to the food providers.

10. May the Convention Committee sell ad space on placemats?

No. For the reasons described above, the Committee may not accept payments from corporations, companies, partnerships, firms, associations, organizations, business trusts or sureties, labor unions, or publicly funded entities for advertisements on Convention placemats.

11. May the Convention Committee charge general admission?

Yes. However, as described above in the answer to question # 9, all payments from individuals received by the Committee to attend the Convention are considered to be contributions to the Committee and ultimately to the RPA.

Conclusion

All payments to the Fairbanks Convention Committee for the 1998 State Convention are considered to be contributions. The campaign disclosure law now prohibits parties from accepting contributions from corporations, companies, partnerships, firms, associations, organizations, business trusts or sureties, labor unions, or publicly funded entities. Thus, the Convention Committee may not accept payment from prohibited entities for marketing or advertising the convention.

The Commission approved this advisory opinion on February 26, 1998.. 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.