March 15, 2000
Treasurer, Committee to Re-Elect Assemblywoman Carole Migden #962662
1267 Filbert Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
Dear Mr. Sanders
You requested the Ethics Commission’s interpretation of the Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance ("CFRO"), San Francisco Administrative Code Section 16.501, et seq.
Under Section C3.699-12 of the San Francisco Charter, the Ethics Commission has specific authority to provide two kinds of advice: written formal opinions or informal advice. Written formal opinions are available to individuals who request advice about their responsibilities under local laws. Formal opinions provide the requester immunity from subsequent administrative, civil and criminal enforcement action if the material facts are as stated in the request for advice and both the City Attorney and District Attorney concur with the Ethics Commission’s opinion. Id. Informal advice does not provide similar protection. Id.
Because you seek advice regarding specific actions which you, or your clients, might take in the future, the Commission is treating your question as a request for a formal opinion.
May Assemblywoman Carole Migden make a contribution from campaign committee resources to a candidate for local elective office?
Yes. The CFRO does not prohibit committees that are controlled by State candidates or officeholders from making contributions to candidates for local elective office. Such contributions are subject to the general provisions of the CFRO, including the limits on campaign contributions.
The CFRO does not prohibit State committees, including committees that are controlled by State candidates or officeholders, from making contributions from the committee’s resources to a candidate for local elective office, including Mayor and Supervisor. Such contributions are subject to the general provisions of the CFRO, including the limits on campaign contributions. For the general election, the contribution limit is $500. The contribution limit for the run-off election is $250. S.F. Admin. Code Sections 16.508(b) and 16.509(b).
The CFRO originally imposed variable contribution limits. If a candidate agreed to comply with voluntary spending limits, the candidate could accept up to $500 per contributor in the general election, and up to $250 in the run-off election. If the candidate declined to accept the spending limits, the candidate could accept only up to $150 in the general election and $100 in the run-off election. S.F. Admin. Code Sections 16.508(a) and 16.509(a). In 1999, a federal district court preliminarily enjoined the variable contribution limit. For this reason, all candidates for local elective office are subject to the same contribution limits of $500 per contributor for the general election and $250 per contributor for the run-off election.
I hope that you find this letter responsive to your inquiry. If you have additional questions, please contact me at (415) 554-9510.
cc: City Attorney Louise H. Renne
District Attorney Terence Hallinan