Topic:
CAMPAIGNS - PUBLIC FINANCING; CONTRACTORS; ELECTIONS (GENERAL); LEGISLATION; LOBBYING; POLITICAL COMMITTEES;
Location:
CAMPAIGNS - PUBLIC FINANCING;

OLR Research Report


May 30, 2008

 

2008-R-0316

CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAWS APPLICABLE TO

NON-PARTICIPATING CANDIDATES

By: Kristin Sullivan, Associate Analyst

You asked for a summary of how recent campaign finance legislation affects candidates who do not participate in the Citizens' Election Program. You are also interested in how such a candidate's campaign spending affects his or her opponents.

SUMMARY

Public Act 05-5, October 25 Special Session, An Act Concerning Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reform for Statewide Constitutional and General Assembly Offices, established the Citizens' Election Program as a system of public campaign financing and the Citizens' Election Fund (CEF) as its funding source. While program participation is voluntary, the act made changes to campaign finance laws that affect statewide and legislative office candidates who do not participate in the program (“nonparticipating candidates”), not only those who participate (“participating candidates”).

In addition to establishing the program, the act banned contributions from certain contractors and lobbyists and changed certain contribution limits. Only nonparticipating candidates are subject to the new limits since participating candidates are limited to qualifying contributions, personal funds, and state grants as campaign funding sources. As such, participating candidates are entitled to additional money from the CEF if their opponents make excess expenditures.

Three acts have amended PA 05-5, October 25 Special Session: (1) PA 06-137, An Act Concerning the Campaign Finance Reform Legislation and Certain Election Law and Ethics Provisions; (2) PA 07-1, An Act Concerning the State Contractor Contribution Ban and Gifts to the State and Quasi-Public Agencies; and (3) PA 08-2, An Act Concerning the Citizens' Election Program. This report summarizes the most significant changes to campaign finance laws for nonparticipating candidates resulting from PA 05-5, October 25 Special Session, and these three acts. Specifically, it addresses:

1. the filing requirement regarding program participation,

2. exploratory committees,

3. contributor certification,

4. contribution limits,

5. coordinated and excess expenditures,

6. excess expenditures,

7. contribution and solicitation bans,

8. political advertising,

9. gifts to workers or for political purposes, and

10. surplus donations.

A Guide for Statewide Office and General Assembly Candidates Not Participating in the Citizens' Election Program, which the State Election Enforcement Commission (SEEC) publishes, provides more detailed information on each campaign finance law nonparticipating candidates must abide by and the relevant procedures.

FILING REQUIREMENT ( 9-703)

Every candidate for statewide or legislative office must file with the SEEC an affidavit of intent to abide by the requirements of the Citizens' Election Program or an affidavit of intent not to abide by the requirements (Form CEP 10 or Form CEP 11, respectively). Table 1 provides the deadlines for submitting the affidavit before a primary, general, or special election.

Table 1: Participation Decision

Action

Deadline

(2008 Election)

File an affidavit of intent to participate or not participate in the Citizens' Election Program (CGS 9-703).

For a primary candidate, no later than 4:00 p.m. on the 25th day preceding the primary (CGS 9-703(a)).

(July 18, 2008)

For a general election candidate, no later than 4:00 p.m. on the 40th day preceding the election (CGS 9-703(a)).

(September 25, 2008)

For a legislative candidate in a special election, no later than 4 p.m. on the 25th day preceding the special election (CGS 9-703(a)).

(Depends on the date of the special election)

EXPLORATORY COMMITTEES ( 9-604 and 9-608)

Candidates may use exploratory committees to aid or promote their candidacies for public office, rather than just to determine if they want to run for public office. Candidates who establish exploratory committees must designate on their statement of organization whether they are considering running for legislative, statewide, or another type of office. A candidate may certify on the statement that he or she will not be a candidate for state representative. If a candidate so certifies and subsequently establishes a candidate committee for the office of state representative, the candidate committee's campaign treasurer must pay to the state treasurer an amount equal to the contributions over $250 (the maximum contribution for state representative) that the exploratory committee received. The treasurer must deposit the funds into the General Fund. Table 2 shows the schedule for dissolving an exploratory committee and establishing a candidate committee.

Table 2: Schedule for Dissolving an Exploratory Committee and Forming a

Candidate Committee

Action

Deadline

(2008 Election)

Candidate files notice of intent to dissolve exploratory committee.

Within 15 days after the earlier of (1) declaring to seek public office; (2) being endorsed at a convention, caucus, or town meeting; or (3) filing his or her candidacy for office.

(Major party conventions for state and multi-town district offices: May 6-27, 2008 (CGS 9-383))

(Single-town district legislative candidate endorsements: May 20-27, 2008 (CGS 9-391(C)))

Candidate forms candidate committee.

Within 15 days after filing notice of intent to dissolve the exploratory committee.

(Varies by candidate)

CONTRIBUTOR CERTIFICATION ( 9-608)

Campaign treasurers must identify on campaign finance statements contributors who give an aggregate of $50 or more. In addition, individuals who make contributions to a committee that separately or in the aggregate exceed $50 must certify that they are not a (1) principal of a state or prospective state contractor or (2) communicator lobbyist or an immediate family member of such a lobbyist. The committees to which contributors must make this certification are those prohibited from accepting contributions from contractors and lobbyists. They are (1) candidate and exploratory committees for statewide and legislative candidates, (2) PACs authorized to contribute to those candidates, and (3) party committees.

Campaign Treasurers ( 9-608(c)(3)). A campaign treasurer who receives such a contribution without the certification must send the contributor a written request for it via certified mail, return receipt requested, within three business days and may not deposit the contribution until obtaining the certification. He or she must return the contribution if the certification does not arrive within 14 days of the request or by the end of the reporting period in which the contribution was received, whichever is later.

CONTRIBUTION LIMITS

The law prohibits and limits the contributions individuals, corporations, and political committees (known as PACs) may make to nonparticipating candidates. It also increases, from 16 to 18, the minimum age for contributing over $30.

Ad Books ( 9-601a)

Individuals and corporations can purchase advertising space in a campaign fundraising program (ad book) without the purchase being counted as a contribution to (1) municipal office candidate committees and (2) town committees. Individual purchases are limited to an aggregate of $50 and corporations to an aggregate of $250.

Ad book purchases from statewide and legislative office candidates are subject to contribution prohibitions, limits, and reporting requirements. In addition, communicator lobbyists, their immediate family members, and state or prospective state contractors and their principals are prohibited from purchasing an ad from a town committee.

Individuals ( 9-611 and 9-612)

Table 3 shows the current limits on contributions from individuals to nonparticipating candidates.

Table 3: Individual Contribution Limits

Recipient

(Candidate or Committee)

Individual Limit

Limits Apply Separately to a Primary and General Election

Governor

$3,500

Other statewide offices

2,000

State senator, probate judge

1,000

State representative

250

Aggregate During One Calendar Year

Exploratory committee for non-state representative

375

Exploratory committee for state representative or unspecified offices

250

Minors ( 9-611)

Eighteen is the minimum age for making a contribution over $30 to:

1. a candidate or committee formed to support or oppose a candidate for nomination or election to office,

2. an exploratory committee, or

3. a PAC or party committee in a calendar year.

Violators of these provisions are not subject to SEEC penalties.

State Employees ( 9-612(j))

There is a $100 limit on contributions from:

1. heads of executive branch and quasi-public state agencies, their deputies, their full-time employees who are appointed by the governor or who are in unclassified service, and members of their immediate families to any candidate for governor or lieutenant governor;

2. officials and employees who are in unclassified service in the offices of constitutional officers, other than governor and lieutenant governor, or members of their immediate families, to any candidate for the office where they work; and

3. caucus staff for a major party in either house of the General Assembly, or members of their immediate families, to (a) any candidate for state senator or state representative or (b) a legislative caucus or leadership committee.

The limits apply separately to primaries and general elections.

PACs

The limits on campaign contributions from PACs vary by office. Tables 4 through 8 show the current limits.

Table 4: Business and Labor PAC

Contribution Limits ( 9-613 & 9-615)

Recipient

(Candidate or Committee)

Business PAC Limit

Labor PAC Limit

Limits Apply Separately to a Primary and General Election

Governor

$5,000

$5,000

Other statewide offices

3,000

3,000

Chief executive officer of a town, city, or borough

1,500

1,500

State senator or probate judge

1,500

1,500

State representative

750

750

Other municipal offices

375

375

Aggregate During One Calendar Year

Exploratory committee

375

375

Table 5: Party Committee Contribution Limits ( 9-617)

Recipient

(Candidate or Committee)

State Central

Committee Limit

Town

Committee Limit

Limits Apply Separately to a Primary and General Election

Governor

$50,000

$7,500

Other statewide offices

35,000

5,000

State senator

10,000

5,000

Probate judge, or chief executive officer of a town, city, or borough

10,000

3,000

State representative

5,000

3,000

Other municipal offices

5,000

1,500

Aggregate During One Calendar Year

Exploratory committee

375

375

Table 6: Ongoing PAC Contribution Limits ( 9-618)

Recipient

(Candidate or Committee)

Ongoing PAC Limit

Limits Apply Separately to a Primary and General Election

Governor

$5,000

Other statewide offices

3,000

State senator, probate judge, chief executive officer of a town, city or borough

1,500

State representative

750

Other municipal offices

375

Aggregate During One Calendar Year

Exploratory committee

375

Table 7: PACs Organized for a Single Primary or Election

Contribution Limits ( 9-619)

Recipient

(Candidate or Committee)

PAC Organized for a Single Primary

or Election Limit

Limits Apply Separately to a Primary and General Election

Governor

$5,000

Other statewide offices

3,000

State senator, probate judge, or chief executive officer of a town, city, or borough

1,500

State representative

750

Other municipal offices

375

Aggregate During One Calendar Year

Exploratory committee

375

Table 8: Legislative Committee

Contribution Limits ( 9-618 and 9-619)

RECIPIENT

(CANDIDATE OR COMMITTEE)

LEGISLATIVE LEADERSHIP OR

LEGISLATIVE CAUCUS PAC LIMIT

LIMITS APPLY SEPARATELY TO A PRIMARY AND GENERAL ELECTION

GOVERNOR

PROHIBITED

OTHER STATEWIDE OFFICES

PROHIBITED

PROBATE JUDGE OR CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF A TOWN, CITY, OR BOROUGH

PROHIBITED

STATE SENATOR

$10,000

STATE REPRESENTATIVE

5,000

OTHER MUNICIPAL OFFICES

PROHIBITED

EXPLORATORY COMMITTEE

PROHIBITED

COORDINATED AND ORGANIZATION EXPENDITURES

Coordinated expenditures are considered contributions and thus, restricted to lawful committee purposes and subject to contribution limits and filing requirements. Conversely, organization expenditures are not considered campaign finance expenditures unless they benefit legislative candidates who participate in the Citizens' Election Program.

Coordinated Expenditures ( 9-601(19) and 9-601a(a)(4))

A “coordinated expenditure” is one made by a person:

1. in cooperation, consultation, or concert with, at the request, suggestion, or direction of, or pursuant to a general or particular understanding with (a) a candidate or his committee, a PAC, or a party committee or (b) a consultant or agent acting on behalf of any of these entities;

2. for the production, dissemination, or publication of any broadcast, written, or graphic form of political advertising or campaign communication prepared by (a) a candidate or his committee, a PAC, or a party committee or (b) a consultant or agent acting on behalf of any of these entities;

3. based on information about a candidate's plans, projects, or needs prepared by a candidate or his committee, a PAC, or a party committee, or a consultant or agent acting on behalf of any of these entities;

4. who serves during that election cycle as the campaign chairperson, treasurer, or deputy treasurer of a candidate committee, PAC, or party committee benefiting from the expenditure, or in any other executive or policymaking position as a member, employee, fundraiser, consultant, or other agent of the candidate, his committee, a PAC, or a party committee;

5. for fundraising activities with or for, or for the solicitation or receipt of contributions on behalf of, (a) a candidate or his committee, a PAC, or a party committee or (b) a consultant or other agent acting on behalf of any of these entities;

6. based on information given to him or his agent that is (a) about a candidate's campaign plans, projects, or needs; (b) directly or indirectly provided by the candidate or his committee, a PAC, a party committee, or a consultant or agent acting on behalf of any of these entities; and (c) provided with an express or implied understanding that he is considering making such an expenditure; or

7. for a communication that clearly identifies a candidate during an election campaign and he or his agent informs the candidate or his committee, a PAC, or a party committee, or a consultant or agent acting on behalf of any of these entities, about the communication's contents, intended audience, timing, location, or method or frequency of dissemination.

A person who makes a coordinated expenditure without the knowledge of the candidate it benefits is guilty of illegal practices and subject to a fine of up to $5,000, up to five years in prison, or both. The law immunizes candidates from civil or criminal liability for any such coordinated expenditure.

Organization Expenditures ( 9-601(25), 9-601a(b)(16), and 9-718)

For most candidates, organization expenditures are not considered campaign finance expenditures and thus, are not restricted to lawful committee purposes or subject to filing requirements. (The law places limits on organization expenditures made to benefit legislative candidates who participate in the Citizens' Election Program.)

“Organization expenditures” are made by party committees, legislative caucus committees, and legislative leadership committees for the benefit of candidates and their committees. They include expenditures for:

1. the preparation, display, mailing, or distribution of a party candidate listing;

2. printed or electronic documents including party platforms, issue papers, information on Connecticut election law, voter registration lists, and voter identification information that a party, legislative caucus, or legislative leadership committee creates or maintains for party or caucus building and gives to candidates who are members of the same party;

3. campaign events at which at least one candidate is present;

4. an advisor on campaign organization, financing, accounting, strategy, law, or media; or

5. the use of offices, telephones, computers, and similar equipment if it does not result in an additional cost.

EXCESS EXPENDITURES

Supplemental Campaign Finance Statement ( 9-712 (a))

Under the Citizens' Election Program, participating candidates receive state grants from the CEF to fund their campaigns. By law, participating candidates are entitled to additional money from the CEF if their opponents exceed certain spending limits; that is, if they make excess expenditures. An “excess expenditure” is an expenditure made or obligated to be made by a nonparticipating or participating candidate who is opposed by at least one participating candidate in a primary or general election that exceeds the applicable spending limit for the participating candidate and that is the sum of (1) the qualifying contributions the participating candidate must receive and (2) 100% of the applicable full grant for a major party candidate for the primary or general election (CGS 9-712b)(1), as amended by PA 08-02 18).

If a candidate in a primary or general election campaign with at least one participating candidate receives contributions, loans, or other funds or makes or obligates to make an expenditure, that in the aggregate exceeds 90% of the applicable spending limit for the primary or general election period, his or her campaign treasurer must file a supplemental campaign finance statement with the SEEC.

If a candidate receives such funds or makes or obligates to make such an expenditure more than 20 days before the primary or general election, his or her treasurer must file an initial supplemental campaign finance disclosure statement with the commission within 48 hours doing so. If a candidate receives such funds or makes or obligates to make such an expenditure 20 days or less before the primary or election, the treasurer must file the initial supplemental campaign finance disclosure statement with the commission within 24 hours.

Thereafter, the campaign treasurer filing the initial supplemental statement and the campaign treasurers for all opposing candidates must file periodic supplemental campaign finance statements. If the applicable primary or general election is more than five weeks away, they must file periodic statements every other Thursday, beginning with the second Thursday after the filing of the initial statement. If it is five weeks or less away, they file according to the schedule current law sets out, except, in the case of a general election, they must continue to file until the Thursday after, rather than before, the election.

The campaign treasurer of a candidate in a primary or general election campaign with at least one participating candidate must file a declaration of excess receipts or expenditures statement when the candidate committee receives contributions, loans, or other funds, or makes or obligates to make, an expenditure that in the aggregate exceeds 100% of the applicable spending limit. The treasurer must do the same if the candidate has receipts or expenditures that, in the aggregate, exceed 125%, 150%, or 175% of the applicable spending limit for the primary or general election.

Supplemental statements must disclose, as of the day before the filing deadline, campaign contributions, loans, and other funds received, not only expenditures made or obligated during the primary or general election campaign, whichever is applicable.

Processing Payments. If the SEEC determines that a nonparticipating candidate has received contributions, loans, or other funds, or has made or become obligated to make expenditures, that in the aggregate exceed 100% of the applicable spending limit for the primary or general election, it must process a voucher payment for each opposing participating candidate. By law, the commission has two business days to do so and within three business days of receiving the authorized voucher, the comptroller must draw an order on the state treasurer to electronically transfer the payment into each participating candidate's account.

A participating candidate may receive a supplemental grant of 25% of the applicable primary or general election grant, provided he or she has not made expenditures exceeding the sum of (1) the applicable qualifying contributions and (2) 100% of the applicable full grant for the primary or general election. Once the SEEC determines that a participating candidate is entitled to this additional money, the candidate committee may incur an obligation to make additional expenditures up to the amount of the approved supplemental grant. The same process occurs when the SEEC determines that a nonparticipating candidate has received contributions, loans, or other funds, or has made or obligated to make expenditures, that in the aggregate exceed 125%, 150%, and 175% of the applicable spending limit for the primary or general election campaign. (A similar process occurs when a participating candidate who is opposed by at least one other participating candidate exceeds the applicable spending limit.)

By law, the maximum aggregate amount that a participating candidate can receive to match an opponent's excess spending is (1) an amount equal to the total excess spending or (2) an amount equal to the original grant, whichever is less.

Notices Within 96 hours of a Primary or an Election. If, during the 96-hour period beginning at 5 p. m. on the Thursday preceding a primary or an election, the SEEC receives a notice from a participating candidate that his or her opponent has received contributions, loans, or other funds, or made or obligated to make expenditures, exceeding 100%, 125%, 150%, or 175% of the applicable spending limit for the primary or general election campaign that are not yet reported, it must immediately review the notice. The SEEC must notify the comptroller, who must process the voucher using her accounting system. The amount of the supplemental grant is equal to 25% of the applicable grant for the primary or general election campaign.

Once the SEEC determines that a participating candidate is entitled to this additional money, the candidate committee may incur an obligation to make additional expenditures up to the amount of the approved supplemental grant.

Declarations of Excess Expenditures (CGS 9-712 (b))

If a participating or nonparticipating candidate makes or becomes obligated to make an excess expenditure, he or she must file a declaration of excess expenditures. Table 9 shows the filing schedule.

Table 9: Declarations of Excess Expenditures in a

Primary or General Election Campaign

Trigger

(2008 Election)

Action

Deadline

(2008 Election)

Candidate makes or becomes obligated to make an excess expenditure more than 20 days before the primary or general election.

(on or before July 22, 2008 for a primary or on or before October 14, 2008 for the general election)

Campaign treasurer files with the SEEC a declaration of excess expenditures.

Within 48 hours of making or obligating to make the excess expenditure.

(Depends on when candidate makes or becomes obligated to make excess expenditure.)

Candidate makes or becomes obligated to make an excess expenditure 20 days or less before the primary or general election.

(on or after July 23, 2008 for a primary or on or after October 15, 2008 for the general election)

Campaign treasurer files with the SEEC a declaration of excess expenditures.

Within 24 hours of making or obligating to make the excess expenditure.

(Depends on when candidate makes or becomes obligated to make excess expenditure.)

Campaign Treasurers (CGS 9-712(c))

A campaign treasurer who fails to file a supplemental statement or a declaration of excess expenditures within the required time is subject to a civil penalty imposed by the SEEC of up to $1,000 for the first offense and up to $5,000 for each subsequent failure.

CONTRIBUTION AND SOLICITATION BANS

Communicator lobbyists, state contractors, and certain people associated with them are banned from making or soliciting most political contributions. It is also illegal for candidates to solicit these contributions from these individuals (CGS 9-622(10)).

Contractors ( 9-612)

State contractors, prospective state contractors, and prequalified contractors that have state contract solicitations, and their principals, are prohibited from making or soliciting contributions to or on behalf of (1) exploratory or candidate committees for statewide or legislative office candidates, (2) PACs authorized to make contributions to or spend on behalf of candidates for statewide or legislative office, or (3) party committees. For the above-referenced contractors with executive or quasi-public agency contracts or state contract solicitations, the ban applies to statewide office candidates. For those with General Assembly state contract solicitations, the ban applies to legislative candidates.

However, the ban exempts the campaigns of principals of state and prospective state contractors who run for public office or who are elected officials. (By law, “principals” include such contractors' spouses and dependent children.)

A “state contract solicitation” means a request by a state or quasi-public agency, in whatever form issued, including an invitation to bid, request for proposals, requests for information or quotes, or inviting bids, quotes, or other submittals. The definition includes requests made within or outside the competitive procurement process as authorized by law.

Lobbyists ( 9-601a(a)(10) and 9-610)

Communicator lobbyists are prohibited from making contributions to or for the benefit of (1) an exploratory or candidate committee for statewide or legislative office, (2) a political committee established by a candidate for any of these offices, (3) a legislative caucus or leadership committee, or (4) a party committee. The ban applies to lobbyists, their spouses and dependent children, and any political committee these individuals control.

Similarly, communicator lobbyists may not solicit others to make contributions to, or purchase advertising space from, certain political committees. The ban applies to lobbyists, their spouses and dependent children, their agents, and any political committee they control. It prohibits them from soliciting:

1. contributions on behalf of candidates for statewide or legislative offices, the candidate or exploratory committees they establish or control, legislative caucuses and leadership committees, or party committees and

2. anyone to purchase advertising space in a funding raising program a town committee sponsors.

The ban does not apply to lobbyists, their spouses, dependent children, or agents who solicit contributions for their own candidacies for public office. Likewise, if the immediate family member of an elected official is a lobbyist, he or she may contribute to, or solicit for, the official's campaign for office.

POLITICAL ADVERTISING

Use of “Public Funds” ( 9-610)

During the 12 months preceding an election, state and municipal officials and employees cannot authorize the use of public funds for TV, radio, movie theater, billboard, bus poster, newspaper, or magazine promotions or advertisements (1) featuring the name, face, or voice of a candidate for public office or (2) promoting the nomination or election of such a candidate. “Public funds” do not include grants or payments that participating candidates receive from the Citizens' Election Fund.

Attribution Requirement ( 9-621)

Candidate and exploratory committees' political mailings and advertisements intended to promote or defeat a candidate must contain certain attribution information. Among other things:

1. television and Internet video advertising must include the candidate's name, image, and voice before the advertising ends;

2. radio and Internet audio advertising must include the candidate's name and voice before the advertising ends; and

3. automated telephone calls must include the candidate's name and voice before the call ends.

Mailings promoting the success or defeat of a candidate must no longer include (1) a photograph of the candidate who conducts the mailing or (2) the name of the candidate conducting the mailing in the same size font as the mailing's narrative.

GIFTS TO WORKERS OR FOR POLITICAL PURPOSES ( 9-607)

A campaign treasurer may spend up to $100 per person during a calendar year or campaign on gifts for campaign or committee workers, flowers, or other commemorative items for political purposes.

SURPLUS DONATIONS ( 9-608)

Nonparticipating candidates may give surplus campaign funds to (1) the Citizen's Election Fund or (2) charitable organizations. (Candidate committees and political committees, other than ongoing PACs or exploratory committees, must spend or distribute surplus funds within 90 days of (1) a primary when a candidate loses, (2) an election, or (3) a referendum.)

HYPERLINKS

The State Election Enforcement Commission's A Guide for Statewide Office and General Assembly Candidates Not Participating in the Citizens' Election Program http://www.ct.gov/seec/lib/seec/NonParticipating_Guide_June_2008_-_Final.pdf, last visited May 30, 2008.

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