Joint Opinion 06-80 and 06-81
June 9, 2006
Digest: (1) A judicial candidate may buy two tickets to and attend a political event, provided that the event’s organizer sells tickets to judicial candidates or their campaign committees for a price not exceeding $250 per ticket, even if the price per ticket for other attendees exceeds $250. (2) A judicial candidate’s campaign committee is not permitted to purchase an entire table at political party dinners, even where the price per dinner ticket is less than $250.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(2)(v); 100.5(A)(4)(b).
Two judicial candidates inquire separately as to the interpretation of Rule 100.5(A)(2)(v) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, which provides that judicial candidates may “purchase two tickets to, and attend, politically sponsored... (events), provided that the cost of the ticket to such...function shall not exceed the proportionate cost of the dinner or function.” This provision was revised as of February 2006 to explicitly state that “[t]he cost of such ticket shall be deemed to constitute the proportionate cost of the dinner or function if the cost of the ticket is $250 or less. A candidate may not pay more than $250 for the ticket unless he or she obtains a statement from the sponsor of the dinner or function that the amount paid represents the proportionate cost of the dinner or function.” 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(2)(v). (emphasis added).
The inquirer in 06-80 asks whether a judicial candidate is permitted to pay $250 per ticket to attend an event where others must pay more than $250. Rule 100.5(A)(2)(v) explicitly states that a judicial candidate may not pay more than the proportionate cost of an event or function, but includes the presumption that the proportionate cost is not exceeded provided the candidate pays “$250 or less.” The Committee therefore concludes that a judicial candidate may purchase two tickets to, and attend, a political event, provided the candidate obtains the tickets for $250 or less, regardless of whether other the attendees pay more than $250 per ticket. We cannot and do not opine on any Election Law question implicit in this candidate’s inquiry, i.e., whether the difference between the higher amount other attendees pay and the lower amount the judicial candidate pays constitutes an in-kind contribution.
The judicial candidate in 06-81 inquires whether his/her campaign committee may purchase an entire table at a political dinner, where the price per dinner ticket is $99. Because Rule 100.5(A)(2)(v) permits judicial candidates to purchase two tickets to, and attend, political dinners and events, the Committee concludes that it is not permissible for a judicial candidate’s campaign committee to purchase an entire table at a political dinner or other function, even where the price per ticket falls under the $250 limit. The candidate may not permit his/her campaign committee to do indirectly what he or she cannot do directly. 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(4)(b).