Joint Opinion 98-132/98-136
December 3, 1998
Digest: Under the circumstances presented, it is permissible for a campaign and committee to reimburse a judicial candidate for personal funds expended for campaign-related expenses, from funds raised during the campaign.
Rule: Election Law § 14-130; 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(5); Opinions 98-06; 95-13 (Vol. XIII); 90-195 (Vol. VI); 89-05 (Vol. III).
Two recently-elected judges inquire whether it is permissible to seek reimbursement from the fund-raising committees established on their behalf prior to the general election held November 3, 1998. Both judges ran for the position of Supreme Court Justice.
In one inquiry (98-132), the judge had incurred expenses prior to and subsequent to the formation of the committee, all of which have been paid by the judge in anticipation of reimbursement by the campaign committee. In the other inquiry (98-136), the judge and the judge's spouse expended personal funds to host a pre-convention reception for all of the convention delegates, assuming 50% of the cost thereof. Additionally, the judge and the judge's spouse expended personal funds towards the preparation of the campaign materials and newspaper ads. At the time of the expenditures it was intended to seek reimbursement from funds to be raised by the campaign committee.
While the judges' particular use of their personal funds may have been different, in both instances the monies were used to pay for campaign costs. Thus, the Committee is of the view that it is proper to consolidate these inquiries for purposes of rendering an advisory opinion since the issues raised are essentially the same.
Section 100.5(A)(5) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct provides that:
A judge or candidate for public election to judicial
office shall not personally solicit or accept campaign
contributions, but may establish committees of
responsible persons to conduct campaigns for the
candidate through media advertisements, brochures,
mailings, candidate forums and other means not
prohibited by law . . . A candidate shall not permit
the use of campaign contributions for the private
benefit of the candidate and others.
Section 14-130 of the Election Law states, in pertinent part, that "such funds shall not be converted by any person to a personal use which is unrelated to a political campaign . . . ".
The reimbursement of personal funds used solely for campaign-related expenses is not prohibited. This situation is analogous to instances where the judge has an outstanding campaign debt after the election or where the judge gave the committee a loan. See, Opinions 90-195 (Vol. VI), 95-13 (Vol. XIII). Also, in Opinion 98-06, the Committee stated that it was proper to reimburse a judge for campaign related expenses which were not personal expenditures.
Moreover, we note that the circumstances presented are distinguishable from situations where the judge forms the campaign committee sometime after the election. See, Opinion 89-05 (Vol. III). Here, the campaign committees were created and were functioning during the campaigns.
Under all the circumstances, the Committee concludes that reimbursement to the judges for campaign expenditures from funds raised during the campaign is ethically permissible.