September 19, 1988
Topic: Use of unexpended campaign funds for the re-election of a judicial candidate.
Digest: Unexpended funds held by campaign committee after payment of all campaign expenses may not be transferred to another committee to aid in the election of the judge to a higher judicial office.
Rule: 22 NYCRR §100.7(a)(2)(ii); Election Law §14-130
In 1987, an election committee was formed to aid the successful campaign of a judicial candidate seeking re-election. In 1988, a new election committee was established to aid in the election of this judge to a higher court. The question presented is whether the 1987 committee may transfer its unexpended campaign funds to the 1988 political committee.
We have previously ruled that unexpended campaign funds may not be donated to a political party or committee or to a charitable organization (see, Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics, Opinion 87-22, Jan. 28, 1988). Section 14-130 of the Election Law entitled “Campaign funds for personal use” provides as follows:
Contributions received by a candidate or a political committee may be expended for any lawful purpose. Such funds shall not be converted by any person to personal use which is unrelated to a political campaign or the holding of a public office or party position.
Here, the donors gave their monies to the 1987 committee for the re-election of a particular judicial candidate to a specific judicial office. The use of these funds by the 1988 committee formed to aid in the election of this candidate to a different and higher office may be contrary to the intentions of the donors to the 1987 campaign. Not only are the two offices different, but different opposing candidates may be involved. It is perfectly plausible that a donor to the judge's campaign for an office on a court of limited jurisdiction may, as to that judge's campaign for a court of higher jurisdiction, favor another candidate. It cannot be presumed that donors to the first campaign would wish to be donors to the second campaign. Therefore, the funds should be returned to the original donors.
This Opinion is advisory only and does not bind either the Office of Court Administration or the Commission on Judicial Conduct.