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AO 2021-06: State party chaired by federal officeholder may raise nonfederal funds – FEC.gov

The Democratic Party of Illinois may raise nonfederal funds while Representative Robin Kelly chairs its governing committee, as long as the party’s nonfederal account is administered by a special committee that is not subject to her review or approval.

Background

On March 3, 2021, Representative Robin Kelly was elected chair of the Democratic State Central Committee (“central committee”). The central committee conducts activities to elect Democratic party candidates in Illinois. Under the central committee’s bylaws, the chair is its “chief executive officer” with the authority to appoint and dismiss central committee staff, preside over all central committee meetings, create and staff standing committees, and serve ex-officio on these committees. The Democratic Party of Illinois (“state party”) is governed by the central committee. In addition to its federal account, the state party maintains a nonfederal account that is subject to limits and prohibitions outside of the Federal Election Campaign Act (“the Act”).

Representative Kelly and the state party ask whether adopting certain governance structures for the party would allow the Representative to chair the central committee without restricting the party’s nonfederal fundraising activities. The requestors also ask if the Representative’s name and title may be used on letterhead in nonfederal solicitations.

Analysis

The Act prohibits any federal candidate or officeholder (or any entity directly or indirectly established, financed, maintained, or controlled by, or acting on behalf of, a federal candidate or officeholder) from raising or spending funds in connection with any nonfederal election unless those funds are subject to the limitations or prohibitions of the Act.

Representative Kelly and the state party sought approval of a special committee that would administer the party’s nonfederal account, including its fundraising, advertising and expenditure activities. None of the members of the special committee would be appointed by Representative Kelly. The special committee would administer the account without review or approval by the Representative, and the Representative would have no role in the account’s management or governance. Representative Kelly would also be prohibited from supervising the work of any central committee officer or employee with respect to that person’s work on nonfederal account matters, and she would further be prohibited from terminating an employee’s employment or otherwise taking adverse action based on an employee’s work on such matters. The central committee would amend its bylaws to reflect the approved structure and would require training and recordkeeping requirements for individuals administering the committee. In addition, Representative Kelly would certify compliance with the restrictions on an annual basis.

Under these circumstances, the nonfederal account would not be directly or indirectly established, financed, maintained or controlled by, or acting on behalf of, Representative Kelly. As a result, the Commission concluded that the nonfederal account administered by the special committee may raise funds in amounts and from sources prohibited by the Act but permitted under Illinois law.

However, the Commission further concluded that Representative Kelly’s name and title as chair must not appear on letterhead of the party’s nonfederal solicitations, as such use would impermissibly identify the solicitation as being sent on the Representative’s behalf.

Date Issued: July 15, 2021; Length: 11 pages

Citations

Statutes

52 U.S.C. § 30125(e)(1)(B)
Federal candidates

Regulations

11 CFR 300.62
Non-Federal elections

Resources

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