[1996/oagheade.htm]

OAG 96-25

June 13, 1996

Subject: Limitation on Campaign Contributions by “Permanent Committees.”

Written by: Gerard Gerhard

Requested by: The Honorable Jody Richards, Speaker of the House

Syllabus: Legislative candidates for the November 1996 general election have until 20 days following that election to bring “permanent committee” contribution percentages into compliance with newly established limits of 50 percent or $10,000, whichever is greater. Because of deletion of references to “election cycle,” in KRS 121.150(25), that concept, and campaign contribution accounting in relation to it, will have no application regarding the November 1996 general election.

OAGs cited: None.

Statutes construed: KRS 121.015(2); 121.015(3)(c); 121.150(25); 121.150(25)(a); 121.150(25)(b).

Constitutional provisions cited: � 55

OPINION OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

The following questions have been presented:

Do legislative candidates have until 20 days following the November 5, 1996 general election, as provided in current law and in the newly enacted legislation, to bring their permanent committee contribution percentages for this election cycle into compliance with KRS 121.150(25)?

If so, which percentages will apply, the current limits of 35 percent/$5,000, or the 50 percent/$10,000 limits which become effective on July 15, 1996?

Answer in Brief

In our view, legislative candidates for the November 1996 general election, will have until 20 days following that election to bring permanent committee contribution percentages into compliance with the newly established limits of 50 percent or $10,000, whichever is greater. Because of the deletion of references to “election cycle” from KRS 121.150(25), that concept, and contributions during such period as previously defined, have no application to the November 1996 general election or contributions made in such regard. Accounting for permanent committee campaign contributions, again in our view, in relation to the November 1996 general election, will be based upon committee contributions subsequent to the May 1996 primary, since, with the elimination of the “election cycle” concept, contribution accounting will be from election to election.

Discussion

“Permanent committee” is defined in KRS 121.015(3)(c) as:

. . . A group of individuals, including an association, committee or organization, other than a campaign committee, political issues committee, inaugural committee, or party executive committee, which is established as, or intended to be, a permanent organization having as a primary purpose political activity which may include support of or opposition to selected candidates, slates of candidates, political parties, or issues of public importance, and which functions on a regular basis throughout the year[.]

Prior to April 12, 1996, KRS 121.150(25) provided:

A candidate for elective office, except slates of candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, shall not accept contributions from permanent committees which, in the aggregate, exceed thirty-five percent (35%) of the total contributions accepted by the candidate in any one (1) election cycle or five thousand dollars ($5,000) in any one (1) election cycle, whichever is the greater amount. For the purposes of this subsection, “election cycle” means the period between regular elections for the office a candidate seeks. The percentage of the total contributions or dollar amounts of contributions accepted by a candidate in an election cycle that is accepted from permanent committees shall be calculated as of the regular election day that ends the election cycle. Funds in a candidate's campaign account which are carried forward from one (1) election cycle to another shall not be considered in calculating the acceptable percentage or dollar amount of contributions which may be accepted from permanent committees for the election cycle for which funds are carried forward. A candidate may, without penalty, contribute funds to his campaign account not later than twenty (20) days following the election cycle so as not to exceed the permitted percentage or dollar amount of contributions which may be accepted from permanent committees or the candidate may, not later than twenty (20) days after the end of the election cycle, refund any excess permanent committee contributions on a pro rata basis to the permanent committees whose contributions are accepted after the aggregate limit has been reached.

(Emphasis added.)

The above quoted statute was amended during the 1996 Regular Session of the General Assembly by two bills. One of the bills was Senate Bill 55, which declared an emergency regarding such measure. In view of the declaration of an emergency, and in accordance with Section 55 of the Constitution of Kentucky, Senate Bill 55 became effective upon being approved by the Governor on April 12, 1996. Senate Bill 55 does not change the above quoted language; it merely designates such language as subsection “(a),” and adds a new subsection, “(b),” to KRS 121.150(25). That subsection provides:

The provisions of paragraph (a) of this subsection regarding the receipt of aggregate contributions from permanent committees in any one (1) election shall also apply separately to the receipt of aggregate contributions from executive committees of any county, district, state, or federal political party in any one (1) election.

KRS 121.150(25) was also amended during the 1996 Regular Session by House Bill 695, which will become effective on July 15, 1996. House bill 695 amends the language of KRS 121.150(25)(a), by deleting references to “election cycle,” and by making changes in contribution limits, so that, beginning July 15, 1996, KRS 121.150(25)(a) will provide:

A candidate for elective office, except slates of candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, shall not accept contributions from permanent committees which, in the aggregate, exceed fifty percent (50%) of the total contributions accepted by the candidate in any one (1) election or ten thousand dollars ($10,000) in any one (1) election, whichever is the greater amount. The percentage of the total contributions or dollar amounts of contributions accepted by a candidate in an election that is accepted from permanent committees shall be calculated as of the day of each election. Funds in a candidate's campaign account which are carried forward from one (1) election to another shall not be considered in calculating the acceptable percentage or dollar amount of contributions which may be accepted from permanent committees for the election for which funds are carried forward. A candidate may, without penalty, contribute funds to his campaign account not later than twenty (20) days following the election so as not to exceed the permitted percentage or dollar amount of contributions which may be accepted from permanent committees or the candidate may, not later than twenty (20) days after the end of the election, refund any excess permanent committee contributions on a pro rata basis to the permanent committees whose contributions are accepted after the aggregate limit has been reached.

(Emphasis added.)

In our view, candidates in the November 1996, general election, given the removal of references to “election cycle” effective July 15, 1996, pursuant to House Bill 695 (see above), will have no concerns with the “election cycle” as it was previously defined. A candidate will need to account for, as related to contributions from “permanent committees,” and KRS 121.150(25)(a), only contributions from the period following the May 1996 primary, through the November 1996 general election. Contributions by a permanent committee on or prior to the May 1996 primary will not be counted in relation to the November general election since by that time (the time of the November 1996 general election) accounting for funds pursuant to KRS 121.150(25) will be based upon an “election” as defined in KRS 121.015(2), rather than an “election cycle.”

With regard to allowable contribution amounts from permanent committees for the November 1996 general election, the percentages and amounts established in House Bill 695 will apply, since those amounts will be in effect at the time of that election. Stated another way, a candidate in the November 1996 general election shall not accept contributions from permanent committees which, in the aggregate, exceed fifty (50) percent of the total contributions accepted by the candidate in any one election, or ten thousand dollars ($10,000) in any one election, whichever is the greater amount.

A.B. CHANDLER III

ATTORNEY GENERAL

GERARD R. GERHARD

ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL