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AO 2021-10: Corporation may offer fundraising software to political committees – FEC.gov

Retail Benefits, Inc. (RBI) may provide customized fundraising software to political committees and will not incur reporting obligations under the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) and Commission regulations.

Background

RBI is a for-profit company that enters into licensing agreements with for-profit and non-profit entities (affiliates) to offer customizable versions of its software, through which the affiliates can offer loyalty programs to their supporters and customers (users). These users can receive rebates from online merchants when they make qualifying purchases. Users can opt to receive their rebates as cash back or distribute their rebates in other ways, as allowed by the affiliate and determined by the user. RBI retains a portion of each rebate and deposits the remainder in the user’s account.

RBI intends to enter into similar business relationships with political committees and offer the customizable software for use in committee fundraising. RBI states it will treat political committees the same as non-political committees except when necessary to comply with the Act and Commission regulations. When using a political committee’s software to shop with participating merchants, the user will have the option to contribute all or some of their future rebates to that political committee. Each user’s aggregate contributions to all political committees through the platform will be limited to $200 per calendar year. Users who wish to make contributions with their rebated funds must: verify they are a permissible source; confirm they are using their own funds to make the contribution; and provide their name, address, occupation, and employer.

Analysis

In previous advisory opinions (cited within the opinion), the Commission has determined that the provision of contribution-processing services to a political committee by a commercial vendor does not constitute a contribution to the committee if the vendor:

  • Renders services in the ordinary course of business and at the usual and normal charge;
  • Forwards contributions through a segregated account to candidates and political committees; and
  • Employs adequate screening procedures to ensure that they are not forwarding illegal contributions.

The Commission concluded that RBI’s proposal meets all three of these criteria. First, it will provide mobile and web-based fundraising services to political committees in the ordinary course of business. Second, RBI will segregate users’ funds from its corporate funds and forward contributions to political committees within ten days of receipt. And third, RBI will screen contributions to ensure they are neither excessive nor from prohibited sources and will forward all necessary contributor information to the recipient political committees.

The Commission found that RBI’s proposed activities would not subject it to the reporting requirements of the Act and Commission regulations.

Date Issued: November 12, 2021; Length: 8 pages

Citations

Regulations

11 CFR 100.52(d)
Gift, subscription, loan, advance or deposit of money.

11 CFR 114.2(b)
Prohibition on contributions by corporation

11 CFR 102.8
Receipt of contributions

Statutes

52 U.S.C. 30118(a)
Prohibition on contributions by corporations

52 U.S.C. 30101(8)(A)(i)
Definition of contribution

52 U.S.C. 30102(b)
Account of contributions; segregated funds

52 U.S.C. 30104
Reporting requirements

Resources

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