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1989-56: Use of 1989 Election Contributions for Holiday Cards Mailed in December 1989

December 19, 1989

An advisory opinion has been requested whether contributions accepted for the 1989 election may be used to pay for holiday cards to be mailed in December 1989. The candidate requesting the opinion has received matching public funds in the 1989 election. The request states:

The large majority of these cards will be sent to individuals in some way related to my 1989 campaign for re-election. The mailing list for the most part consists of past contributors and campaign volunteers. I regard this as an essential means of maintaining contact with my supporters. It sends a message that I acknowledge and am grateful for their efforts over the past year and care about their continued support. Without such attention to my volunteer and contributor base, no campaign would be possible.

The issue is whether the cost of the holiday card mailing is a "campaign expenditure" for the 1989 elections for purposes of New York City Administrative Code §3-710(2) (c), so that contributions from the 1989 election may be used to pay for this mailing prior to reimbursing the New York City Election Campaign Finance Fund (the "Fund") for public fund payments received by the candidate's authorized committee. See, generally, Advisory Opinion No. 1989-55, dated December 5, 1989; compare Federal Election Commission, Advisory Opinion 1977-60 (November 23, 1977) (the cost of Christmas cards is a legitimate campaign expenditure).

In general, expenditures are presumed to be made for the election in which the candidate seeks nomination or election next following the making of the expenditure. Campaign Finance Board Rule 102(e). See also Campaign Finance Board Rule 105(f) (regarding the time that an expenditure is deemed to have been made). The mailing of holiday cards to 1989 campaign volunteers and contributors immediately following the date of the election for the purpose of conveying a message of appreciation for assistance provided in the 1989 election, however, is a routine activity involving nominal cost associated with "winding up" the 1989 election campaign. The Rule 102(e) presumption is therefore overcome. Thus, a reasonable holiday card mailing to contributors and campaign volunteers may be considered a 1989 campaign expenditure, and surplus contributions may be used to pay for the mailing prior to making the repayment to the Fund required under Administrative Code §3-710(2) (c) 1.

The candidate bears the burden of demonstrating that a post-election expenditure is a campaign expenditure for the preceding election, for purposes of Administrative Code §3-710(2) (c). A holiday card mailing that contains an appeal for support or for contributions in future elections, or which is addressed to others than those who assisted or provided support in the previous election campaign, would not be considered a campaign expenditure for the previous election.



1 A separate question, whether post-election expenditures for holiday cards are subject to the expenditure limits of Administrative Code §3-706(1), has not been presented and is beyond the scope of this advisory opinion.