* Press release…
The Democratic Party of Illinois (DPI) today announced it has requested an advisory opinion from the Federal Election Commission.
In a letter, DPI presented three possible scenarios for a governance structure to the FEC for its input. Once the FEC provides its guidance, DPI will put a governance structure in place to ensure compliance with all state and federal campaign finance laws. See letter to the FEC attached.
Congresswoman Robin Kelly is not the first federal officeholder to chair a state party. The Democratic Party of Georgia is currently chaired by Congresswoman Nikema Williams and until recently the Republican Party of Colorado was chaired by Congressman Ken Buck. However, the FEC has not previously issued guidance on how a federal officeholder can lead a state or local political party and ensure compliance with federal campaign finance laws and regulations.
“I’ve pledged to lead the state party in a more inclusive manner with more voices at the table, and we are seeking guidance from the FEC that would allow for additional members of the state central committee to serve in a leadership role,” Kelly said. “We’ve provided several approaches to the FEC that adhere to the law and solidify our collective vision to engage more people and voices in the state party platform. As the first woman and first woman of color to chair the Democratic Party of Illinois, and with the involvement of a diverse set of voices across our state, I’m confident we’ll move forward electing Democrats up and down the ballot.”
The FEC is expected to provide a response within 30-60 days, and DPI has requested an expedited response.
Additionally, election attorney Michael Dorf has been named chair of DPI’s state fund, ensuring compliance with all state campaign finance laws while DPI waits for guidance from the FEC.
Dorf replaces Karen Yarbrough on the paperwork.
* From the letter…
This advisory opinion request deals with the last of these restrictions, specifically 52 U.S.C. § 30125(d)’s prohibition of a Federal candidate or officeholder, or an entity that is “established, financed, maintained, or controlled by” a Federal candidate or officeholder, from raising or spending funds in non-Federal elections unless those funds do not exceed limits imposed under the Act, and do not come from sources prohibited under the Act (collectively, the “Non-Federal Funds Ban”).
The Non-Federal Funds Ban was “premised on Congress’ judgment that if a large donation is capable of putting a Federal candidate in the debt of the contributor, it poses a threat of corruption or the appearance of corruption.” As Senator John McCain, one of the principal sponsors of BCRA, explained, the Non-Federal Funds Ban was part of a “system of prohibitions and limitations on the ability of Federal officeholders and candidates, to raise, spend and control soft money” in order “to stop the use of soft money as a means of buying influence and access with Federal officeholders and candidates.”
* Potential issues…
• Whether the Congresswoman has the authority or ability to direct or participate in the DPI State Account’s governance through provisions of constitutions, bylaws, contracts, or other rules, or through formal or informal practices or procedures.
• Whether the Congresswoman has the authority or ability to hire, appoint, demote, or otherwise control the DPI State Account’s officers or other decision-making employees or members.
• Whether the Congresswoman provides funds or goods in a significant amount or on an ongoing basis to the DPI State Account, such as through direct or indirect payments for administrative, fundraising, or other costs.
• Whether the Congresswoman causes or arranges for funds in a significant amount or on an ongoing basis to be provided to the DPI State Account.
* Proposed options…
Option 1: The Special Committee
Under Option 1, the DPI would establish a Special Committee, consisting entirely of individuals who are not Federal candidates or officeholders, to administer the DPI’s State Account. The Special Committee would have complete responsibility for the State Account’s operations and activities, without the review or approval of Congresswoman Kelly. Among other things, the Special Committee would be responsible for the State Account’s fundraising (including solicitations), and spending (including decisions related to contributions by the State Account, advertising on behalf of candidates, and transfers). In carrying out these responsibilities, the Special Committee could delegate responsibilities to one or more individuals associated with the DPI, provided that the individuals in question are not Federal candidates or officeholders.
Congresswoman Kelly would also be restricted from “financing” the State Account. Among other things, the Congresswoman would not make contributions or transfers to the State Account from her personal funds or her Congressional campaign, nor would the Congresswoman solicit non-Federal funds on behalf of the State Account.
Option 2: The Delegate
Under Option 2, the DPI would delegate the administration of the DPI’s State Account to a Vice Chair. Much as under Option 1, that Vice Chair would have complete responsibility for the State Account’s operations and activities, without the review or approval of Congresswoman Kelly. Among other things, the Vice Chair would be responsible for the State Account’s fundraising (including solicitations), and spending (including decisions related to contributions by the State Account, advertising on behalf of candidates, and transfers). As under Option 1, the Vice Chair would be permitted to delegate responsibilities to one or more individuals associated with the DPI, provided that the individuals in question are not Federal candidates or officeholders. The same restrictions on “financing” described under Option 1 would also be in place under Option 2.
Option 3: Recusal
Under Option 3, Congresswoman Kelly would recuse herself from all matters involving the State Account. Among other things, Congresswoman Kelly would not participate in decisions regarding: (i) the State Account’s fundraising, including solicitations; (ii) spending, including decisions related to contributions by the State Account, advertising on behalf of candidates, and transfers; or (iii) personnel, including the supervision and review of individuals tasked with running the State Account. The same restrictions on “financing” described under Option 1 would also be in place under Option 3.
All of these proposed options are basically the same objections raised by the other side during the campaign for DPI chair.