December 5, 1983
A candidate for judicial office may form a campaign committee, may loan to the committee and later be reimbursed from funds solicited by the committee, may expend funds for campaign expenses but may not allow solicitation of funds or services more than 180 days before the election in which he will be a candidate.
References: MCJC 7; MCL 169.204; MSA 4.1703(4)(1), MCL 169.221; MSA 4.1702(21).
A sitting Judge intends to run for reelection in 1984. The Judge wants to print stationery, prepare brochures, and hire clerical and other personnel to assist in the activities of the campaign. The Judge has been invited to a number of events and will have to respond to inquiries about the Judge's background and campaign. The Judge seeks to form a campaign committee immediately, loan funds to it, and then get reimbursed when contributions are received. The committee will neither solicit nor accept contributions prior to 180 days before the primary.
Canon 7 of the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct provides for the formation of a campaign committee. It includes the following sentence in B(1)(c):
". . . A candidate's committee may solicit funds for his campaign no earlier than 180 days before a primary election or nominating convention . . . ."
On the other hand, MCL 169.221; MSA 4.1702(21) provides that a candidate shall form a campaign committee within 10 days after becoming a candidate. A candidate is defined as one who:
". . . receives a contribution, makes an expenditure with a view to bringing about . . . nomination or election to an elective office . . .; or . . . is an officeholder who is subject to a recall vote."
Further, the word "contribution" includes a "payment, gift, subscription, assessment, expenditure, contract, payment for services, dues, advance, forbearance, loan, donation, pledge or promise of money or anything of ascertainable monetary value, . . . ." MCL 169.204; MSA 4.1703(4)(1).
The Judge has raised the questions paraphrased as follows:
May a judicial candidate or his committee use funds of the candidate for campaign materials and expenses prior to 180 days of the primary or other election? May the campaign fund later reimburse the candidate?
The committee accepts the literal interpretation of Canon 7. That Canon bars solicitation of funds at any time prior to 180 days before the primary or other election or which the candidate is standing for election.
Every judge who must stand for election will indulge in activity throughout their term that might be interpreted as "campaigning." On the other hand, the Canon by analogy does not look with favor on campaigns that would extend longer than 180 days.
The Canon does not bar formation of a committee at any time, bar use of a candidate's own funds or use by the committee of a candidates own funds, or bar campaigning outside the 180 day period. Candidates should certainly be discrete in what they do at any time; they should recognize the implication of the 180 day limit in the Canon and restrain their campaign efforts at other times.
Every candidate should keep in mind the absolute restriction imposed in MCJC 7B(2)(c) as well:
". . . A candidate should not use or permit the use of campaign contributions for the private benefit of himself or members of his family."