An advisory opinion has been requested whether the cost of certain food and beverage items provided to a contributor at a fundraising event must be deducted from the gross amount of the contribution for purposes of determining the amount which qualifies as a threshold or matchable contribution. The items described are "cocktails, beer, wine, cheese and canapes" reasonably valued at less than $10 per person, and in most instances at less than $5 per person.
The amount of a "threshold contribution" and "matchable contribution" are both calculated as:
the net amount of any monetary contribution realized by a candidate or an authorized committee after deducting the reasonable value of any goods or services provided the contributor in connection with the contribution.
(Emphasis added.) New York City Administrative Code §3-702(2), (3) 1. In Advisory Opinion No. 1989-16, dated April 6, 1989, the Board stated:
Items of negligible value, such as a button, bumper sticker, snacks, and soft drinks made available to contributors attending a campaign event, and campaign literature, need not be deducted.
It is unclear from the example described whether the cheese and canapes were available only as snacks or were part of a meal. To the extent these items may reasonably be described as inexpensive snack foods, they are of negligible value and need not be deducted for purposes of calculating the amount of a threshold or matchable contribution.
Cocktails, beer, and wine are not items which may reasonably be described as having a negligible value. Cf. New York Tax Law Article 18 (Taxes on Alcoholic Beverages). Therefore the cost of these beverages must be deducted from the gross contribution amount for purposes of calculating the threshold and matchable contribution amount.
NEW YORK CITY CAMPAIGN FINANCE BOARD
1 Section 3-702(2) and (3) also provide other requirements for making threshold and matchable contribution claims, including the rule that the contributor must be an individual, resident in New York City.