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AO 2021-04: Corporation may post statements by Members of Congress on its digital platforms – FEC.gov

Pray.com may post faith-based statements from Members of Congress on its digital platforms without making coordinated communications or prohibited in-kind contributions.

Background

Pray.com is a for-profit corporation that provides faith-based content to users of its mobile application and website. Pray.com proposes to invite Members of Congress who are also candidates for federal office (“Member-Candidates”) to record a short statement about prayer and other matters of faith. The statements will be accessible for free to all Pray.com users.

Analysis

Under the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) and Commission regulations, expenditures for communications that are coordinated with a candidate result in in-kind contributions. Because the Act prohibits corporations from making contributions to candidates, corporations may not pay for coordinated communications.

Commission regulations provide a three-prong test for coordinated communications. The communication must be paid for, in whole or in part, by a person other than the candidate or the candidate’s authorized committee (the “payment prong”); the communication must satisfy one of five content standards (the “content prong”); and the communication must satisfy one of five conduct standards (the “conduct prong”).

The content prong applies only to communications that are either a public communication or an electioneering communication. Communications made over the internet are expressly exempt from the definition of public communication, unless they are placed for a fee on another person’s website. Electioneering communications are certain broadcast, cable or satellite communications.

The Commission determined that the Member-Candidates’ statements would not satisfy the content prong of the coordination test. The statements are not public communications because Pray.com will post them on its own website and digital application. They do not qualify as electioneering communications because they are not broadcast, cable or satellite communications. Accordingly, the Commission determined that the Member-Candidates’ statements would not be “coordinated communications.”

The Commission also noted that Pray.com’s proposed activities are similar to those that the Commission previously determined would not result in an in-kind contribution. For instance, Pray.com’s proposal indicates that Members of Congress will be invited to participate due to their status as legislators rather than as candidates. Furthermore, the Member-Candidates’ statements would serve Pray.com’s commercial interests by increasing the volume of its faith-based content and potentially attracting users. Accordingly, Pray.com’s proposed activities would not result in corporate in-kind contributions to participating Member-Candidates.

Date Issued: April 8, 2021; Length: 6 pages

Citations

Regulations

11 CFR 109.21
What is a “coordinated communication”?

Resources

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