March 9-10, 2011
Digest: Although a candidate for elective judicial office may not use campaign funds to make civic or charitable donations, the candidate may, during his/her window period, promote his/her candidacy by sponsoring a local softball team.
Rules: Election Law §14-130; 22 NYCRR 100.0(A); 100.0(Q); 100.5(A)(2); 100.5(A)(2)(ii); 100.5(A)(5); 100.5(A)(6); Opinion 07-137.
A non-judge candidate for elective judicial office asks whether his/her campaign committee may sponsor a softball team for a non-political softball tournament in his/her community. The candidate states that such sponsorship would pay for team shirts and banners displaying the candidate’s name. The candidate notes that the winning teams will receive prize money, but such funds are raised directly “from the public due to food sales.”
A judge or non-judge candidate for public election to judicial office within his/her window period may participate in his/her own campaign for judicial office as permitted by the Election Law and the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct (see 22 NYCRR 100.0[A]; 100.0[Q]; 100.5[A]). For example, the candidate and his/her campaign committee may distribute promotional campaign materials supporting his/her candidacy (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][ii]; 100.5[A]). However, campaign contributions may not be used for the private benefit of the candidate or others (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A]; Election Law §14-130), and the candidate must not permit the use of campaign funds or personal funds to pay for any campaign-related goods or services for which fair value is not received (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A]).
In the Committee’s view, a judge or non-judge candidate for elective judicial office in his/her window period may promote his/her candidacy at non-politically sponsored events, including a local softball tournament (see Opinion 07-137; 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][ii]). Although a candidate may not simply donate campaign funds to a softball team (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A]; Election Law §14-130), it is permissible to purchase campaign-related advertising in furtherance of the candidate’s campaign by sponsoring a softball team (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][ii]; Opinion 07-137). As with any other campaign expenditures, the candidate should first determine that he/she will obtain fair value for the money expended for such advertisements to avoid any appearance of impropriety (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A]; cf. Opinion 07-137).