Advisory Opinion NO 2012-01

QUESTION PRESENTED

Whether candidates who have no contributions and no expenditures other than their own payments of their own qualifying fees must file more than the initial and final campaign financial disclosure reports.

ADVISORY OPINION

REVISED ADVISORY OPINION ADOPTED AT NOVEMBER 16, 2012 COMMISSION MEETING:

GEORGIA GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY AND CAMPAIGN FINANCE COMMISSION

ADVISORY OPINION
C.F.C. 2012-01

QUESTION PRESENTED

Whether candidates who have no contributions and no expenditures other than their own payments of their own qualifying fees must file more than the initial and final campaign financial disclosure reports.

ADVISORY OPINION

The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission (the “Commission”) has received this request for advisory opinion from Superior Court Judge David Motes.
The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Act (the “Act”) provides that

In the event any candidate covered by this chapter has no opposition in either a primary or a general election and receives no contribution of more than $100.00, such candidate shall only be required to make the initial and final report as required under this chapter.

See O.C.G.A. § 21-5-34(d).

Under Article 1, the Act defines a “contribution” as

a gift, subscription, membership, loan, forgiveness of debt, advance or deposit of money or anything of value conveyed or transferred for the purpose of influencing the nomination for election or election of any person for office…[,] other forms of payment made to candidates for office or who hold office when such fees and compensation made can be reasonably construed as a campaign contribution designed to encourage or influence a candidate or public office holding elective office….[, and] transactions wherein a qualifying fee required of the candidate is furnished or paid by anyone other than the candidate.

See O.C.G.A. § 21-5-3(7)(emphasis added).

However, the Act’s definition of “expenditure” does not explicitly exempt qualifying fees paid by candidates, implying that when a candidate pays a qualifying fee out of his personal funds, then such a transaction could be an “in-kind contribution.” See O.C.G.A. §§ 21-5-3(12) & Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 189-6-.07(1)(defining an “in-kind contribution” as “any item of value other than money received by a candidate or any committee.”).

Recognizing the contradictions found in the Act, the Commission finds that the payment a qualifying fee out of a candidate’s personal funds is an “in-kind contribution” and must be reported as such. Such treatment could cause unopposed candidates who receive no contribution of more than $100.00, yet pay their own qualifying fee, to never qualify under O.C.G.A. § 21-5-34(d). Because it included O.C.G.A. § 21-5-34(d) in the Act, the General Assembly obviously did not intend such a result. To read the Act otherwise would render O.C.G.A. § 21-5-34(d) meaningless and mere surplusage, as there could never be an instance where it applies. See, e.g., Monticello, Ltd. v. City of Atlanta, 231 Ga. App. 382, 383 (1998).

Accordingly, the Commission finds that unopposed candidates who have no contributions and no expenditures other than payment of their own qualifying fees with their own personal funds are not required to file more than the initial and final campaign financial disclosure reports.

For purposes of this Advisory Opinion, an “initial campaign disclosure report” is the first report file by a candidate after qualifying or achieving candidacy for the purpose of reporting. A “final campaign disclosure report” is the December report described in O.C.G.A. 21-5-24(c), unless a candidate is otherwise required to file supplemental reports or a final report and termination statement under O.C.G.A. 21-5-34(m).

Prepared by Jonathan Hawkins.
November 16, 2012.

ADOPTED AT NOVEMBER 16, 2012 COMMISSION MEETING


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