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Ethics Opinion

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NOTE: Effective January 1, 2000, the "180-day Fundraising Period" in MCJC 7B(2)(c) has been replaced by a fund-raising period starting on February 15 of the year of the election.

JI-78

February 4, 1994

SYLLABUS

    A judicial candidate's campaign committee may not send invitations to a fund raiser prior to the 180-day fund raising period.

    A judicial candidate's campaign committee may use funds voluntarily contributed by the candidate and others prior to the 180-day fund raising period to reserve a hall or order catering for a fund raising event to be held within the 180-day period.

    References: MCJC 7B(2)(b) and (c); JI-17; JTC A/O 65; MCL 169.204(2).

TEXT

A lawyer asks whether prior to the 180-day limitation found in MCJC 7(B)(2)(c), a judicial candidate's committee may send invitations to a fund raiser when the fund raiser itself will be held within the 180 days preceding the election? A similar issue is the question of whether a judicial candidate, prior to the 180-day fund raising period, may use the candidate's personal funds to reserve a hall or order catering for a fund raising event to be held within the 180 day fund raising period.

MCJC 7(B)(2)(b) and (c) state:

    "(b) A judge may establish committees of responsible persons to secure and manage the expenditure of funds for the campaign and obtain public statements of support for the candidacy.

    "(c) Such committees are prohibited from soliciting campaign contributions from lawyers in excess of $100 per lawyer, but may solicit public support from lawyers. A candidate's committee may solicit funds for the campaign no earlier than 180 days before a primary election or nominating convention and may not solicit or accept funds after the date of the general election. A candidate should not use or permit the use of campaign contributions for the private benefit of the candidate or the candidate's family."

This Canon clearly prohibits any type of fund raising activity prior to the 180 day fund raising period. It would be an error to interpret the term "fund raising period" as meaning a time frame in which funds may be accepted rather than the obvious meaning which addresses the "solicitation" of funds. To interpret it otherwise would have the effect of allowing fund raising solicitations in an unlimited period of time, as long as the "acceptance" of funds was only done in the 180 day period.

JTC A/O 65 distinguishes the acts of solicitation and acceptance, and allows a campaign committee to accept voluntary and unsolicited contributions from both lawyers and the public at large prior to the 180 day period. While the acceptance of such unsolicited and voluntary contributions is allowed, the use of those funds to promote fund raising activities on behalf of the candidate prior to the 180-day period is prohibited. To allow such would cross the line from planning to campaigning. The 180-day time period restriction for fund raising would cease to exist.

MCJC 7B(2)(c) does not apply the 180-day limit to campaign activity, but only to fund raising. Although fund raising cannot begin until the time period set forth in MCJC 7B(2)(c), the work of a planning committee or campaign committee may begin prior to that time period. Such activity may necessarily involve expense on behalf of the candidate or the expenditure by a candidate of the candidate's personal funds to reserve a hall or order catering for a fund raising event to be held within the 180-day fund raising period. This is not prohibited since MCJC 7B(2)(c) addresses the solicitation rather than the acts in preparation for fund raising. To hold otherwise, would effectively eliminate the activities which a planning committee is allowed to do as part of its function.

JI-17 provides that a judicial candidate may contribute his/her own funds to the campaign at any time, and may need to expend funds to determine whether there is support for his/her candidacy prior to the 180-day fund raising period. MCL 169.204(2); CI-987. Whether a candidate may be reimbursed for such expenditures from the campaign committee is a question of law not resolvable under the ethics rules. To the extent such advance expenses may be covered, however, we believe a better approach is for the candidate to loan personal funds to the campaign committee, and have the campaign committee directly contract for the activities. See MCL 169.252(b), MCL 169.208(1).

 
     

 

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