November 30, 2011 •
Ask the Experts – Allocating Contributions Per Election
Q: I want to make political contributions to a candidate for state assembly. The limits are per election. How do I make certain the contribution is attributed to the correct election [primary or general]? Does it matter when I give the contribution in relation to the election?
A: In this situation it is important to have a “meeting of the minds” between the contributor and the candidate. The contributor’s intent should be made clear by either indicating the name of the election on the memo line of the check [e.g., 2012 Primary Election], or including a cover letter with the check, or both. The cover letter can contain language specifically earmarking the contribution for the intended election. Using these precautions should prevent the candidate from allocating the contribution to an election different from the one intended by the contributor, thereby resulting in a violation of the per election contribution limits. It is not unusual for a candidate to file his pre- or post- election reports disclosing aggregate contributions from a donor in violation of the per election limit. The candidate allocated two or more checks to one election, but the contributor intended one check for the primary and one for the general.
Furthermore, a contributor must be aware of the timing of the contribution. For instance, in New Jersey, you only have 17 days after an election to make a contribution for that particular election; otherwise the contribution is automatically applied toward the next election, regardless of the contributor’s intent.
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