Ask the Experts - 2016 Party Conventions - State and Federal Communications

July 7, 2016  •  

Ask the Experts – 2016 Party Conventions

John CozineQ. In what ways are my company and I allowed to get involved in the 2016 national party conventions?

A. The opportunities for individuals and companies to involve themselves in this year’s party conventions are legion, but caution must be exercised to avoid running afoul of the many intersecting laws governing your interaction with the delegates and other officials in attendance as well as the committees putting on the conventions.

Convention delegates and those seeking selection as delegates are subject to the federal contribution rules, which means corporations, labor organizations, foreign nationals and businesses, and federal contractors are not permitted to make contributions. However, those permitted to contribute may do so without limits. Delegates who are public officials are subject to the gifts laws governing the office they hold. In other words, federal officials are subject to federal gift laws, state officials are subject to state gift laws, and local officials are subject to any state and local laws applicable to their office.

Individuals and organizations seeking to become involved with the conventions may contribute to the convention host committees. The host committees are nonprofit organizations set up to encourage commerce in and project a favorable image of the convention city. Organizations and individuals may donate money and make in-kind donations to the host committee to defray the costs of the convention, including costs related to promoting the city and welcoming attendees, providing information and samples to attendees, administrative expenses, providing the use of convention facilities, transportation, law enforcement, hotel rooms, accommodations and hospitality for party site selection groups, and for other convention-related facilities and services.

Convention committees are related to the national party organizations and therefore federal campaign finance laws apply. As a result, direct and in-kind contributions using funds from a corporation, labor organization, foreign nations and businesses, and federal contractors are prohibited. Goods and services may be provided to the national committee in the ordinary course of business. Obviously, it’s quite important to distinguish the host committees from the convention committees. Thankfully, both host committees, the Cleveland 2016 Host Committee and the Philadelphia 2016 Host Committee, use the word “host” in their official names.

The national party conventions represent high profile ways to gain exposure both personally and for your organization. This high profile is also why compliance with the rules governing your dealings with committees, delegates, and attendees is so important.

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