Election Day (November 2nd) is just weeks away and Alabama candidates are busy seeking campaign contributions. The purpose of this newsletter is to present an overview of the law governing campaign contributions in Alabama as covered by The Fair Campaign Practices Act (FCPA) (Ala. Code § § 15-5-1 et seq.). The FCPA governs elections to both state executive and legislative offices, as well as local offices, such as county commission, sheriff, etc.
Please note that contributions to members of the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senators, and federal political action committees (PACs) are governed by federal law and regulated by the Federal Election Commission. The information below does not address federal campaign law.
Individuals. There is no restriction on the amount that an individual may contribute to candidates, PACs or political parties.
Political Action Committees (PACs). There is no restriction on the amount that a PAC may contribute to candidates, PACs or political parties.
Partnerships and Limited Liability Companies. There is no statutory restriction on the amount a partnership or limited liability company may contribute to candidates, PACs, or political parties, and the Alabama Attorney General’s Office has issued an Advisory Opinion stating that there is no limitation.1
Corporations. Corporations and their parent or subsidiary corporations, other than public utilities regulated by the Public Service Commission,2 may contribute up to $500 per election (primary, run-off, and general elections are each considered a separate election) to a candidate or political party. Corporate contributions to a PAC are limited to $500 for each state and local election certified by the Alabama Secretary of State in the current year.3 At the date of this publication, the Secretary of State has scheduled 33 elections, meaning that a corporation may contribute up to $16,500 to an unlimited number of PACs in 2010 (33 elections x $500). The number of elections scheduled by the Secretary of State changes throughout the year as new elections are scheduled and certified.
What is a Contribution?
Each of the following items is considered a contribution:
- A gift, subscription, loan, advance, deposit of money or anything of value, a payment, a forgiveness of a loan, or payment of a third party, made for the purpose of influencing the result of an election.
- A contract or agreement to make a gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value for the purpose of influencing the result of an election.
- Any transfer of anything of value received by a political committee from another political committee, political party, or other source.
- The payment of compensation by any person for the personal services or expenses of any other person if the services are rendered or expenses incurred on behalf of a candidate, political committee, or political party without payment of full and adequate compensation by the candidate, political committee, or political party.
Each of the following items is not considered a contribution:
- The value of services provided without compensation by individuals who volunteer a portion or all of their time on behalf of a candidate or political committee.
- The use of real or personal property and the cost of invitations, food, or beverages, voluntarily provided by an individual to a candidate or political committee in rendering voluntary personal services on the individual’s residential or business premises for election-related activities.
- The sale of any food or beverage by a vendor for use in an election campaign at a charge to a candidate or political committee less than the normal comparable charge, if the charge to the political committee for use in an election campaign is at least equal to the cost of the food or beverage to the vendor.
- Any unreimbursed payment for travel expenses made by an individual who, on his or her own behalf, volunteers personal services to a candidate or political committee.
- The payment by a state or local committee of a political party of the cost of preparation, display, or mailing or other distribution incurred by the committee with respect to a printed slate card or sample ballot, or other printed listing of two or more candidates for any public office for which an election is held in the state, except that this subparagraph does not apply in the case of costs incurred by the committee with respect to a display of the listing made on broadcasting stations, or in newspapers, magazines, or other similar types of general public political advertising.
- The value or cost of polling data and voter preference data and information if provided to a candidate or political committee, unless the information was compiled with the advance knowledge of and approval of the candidate or the political committee.
When Contributions may be Given
Candidates may begin fund raising 12 months prior to the election and may continue fund raising for 120 days after the election to pay off campaign debts (only to the extent of any campaign debt).
State candidates cannot solicit or receive contributions any time the Alabama Legislature is in session, unless the Legislature is in session within 120 days of an election. However, state candidates involved in a special election called by the governor may accept contributions, even when the Legislature is in session. Please note that only state candidates, not county or municipal candidates, are affected by this limitation.
- All contributions exceeding legal limits are prohibited.
- Payment in exchange for a vote is prohibited.
- Contributions by one person in the name of another are prohibited.
- Reimbursement of a political contribution is prohibited.
- Fraudulent misrepresentation of a candidate, PAC, or party committee is prohibited.
- Solicitation of funds by threatened or actual force, job discrimination, or financial reprisals, is prohibited.
For more information on the FCPA and to view campaign finance disclosure reports for candidates and PACs, please visit the Alabama Secretary of State’s Elections Division website.