Advisory Opinion NO

QUESTION PRESENTED

Whether an incumbent public official, who is undecided about seeking re-election in his or her election year, and who has taken no steps to either seek nomination for election or re-election, is required to file the March 31 Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report.

ADVISORY OPINION

Advisory Opinion C.F.C. 2013-02

The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission (the “Commission”) has received this request for advisory opinion from Charles J. King, the Clerk and Qualifying Officer of Town of Riverside, Georgia.

The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Act (the “Act”) provides that candidates or campaign committees that accept contributions, make expenditures designed to bring about the nomination or election of a candidate, or have filed a declaration of intent to accept campaign contributions (“DOI”) must file certain campaign disclosure reports. See O.C.G.A. § 21-5-76(a).

A “candidate” is defined by the Act as “an individual who seeks nomination for election or election to any public office, whether or not such an individual is elected….” See O.C.G.A. § 21-5-3(4). A person can be deemed “to seek nomination or election” several different ways. Id. For example, if a person has taken necessary action to qualify for nomination or election, he or she is deemed to seek nomination or election. Id. A person is also deemed to seek nomination or election if he or she has received any contributions or made any expenditures in pursuit of such nomination or election. Id. Likewise, a person is to seek nomination or election if he or she has given consent for his or her campaign committee to receive contributions or make expenditures. Id.

The Act’s definition of candidate makes clear that a person does not necessarily have to qualify for nomination or election to be deemed a candidate. Indeed, a person may begin receiving campaign contributions before taking action to qualify for nomination or election, so long as that person has filed with the Commission a DOI. See O.C.G.A. § 21-5-30(g).

The Commission does not require an incumbent to file a new DOI to accept campaign contributions for the office currently held prior to formally qualifying to seek re-election. Thus, because the DOI is in effect until the incumbent vacates his or her office, such an incumbent is permitted to accept campaign contributions prior to formally qualifying.

Accordingly, the Commission finds that unless an incumbent in an election year has formally withdrawn the DOI on file with the Commission or is seeking a different office, then the DOI on file is still in effect. Thus, the incumbent must file the March 31 Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report.


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