December 11, 2018
Digest: A judge who is a judicial candidate within his/her window period may pay his/her proportionate share of the actual expenses for a free “meet and greet” with four candidates for non-judicial office, where two of these candidates are invited as guests and will not share in the expenses, provided he/she concludes the campaign will receive fair value for the expenditure.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(1); 100.5(A)(1)(h); 100.5(A)(2); 100.5(A)(6); Opinions 18-70; 12-84/12-95; 91-94.
A full-time judge who is within his/her window period for re-election asks if he/she may pay a share of the expenses for a free “meet and greet” with four candidates for non-judicial office, two of whom are invited guests. The judge and two of the non-judicial candidates have been asked to contribute a proportionate (one-third) share in the expenses for this non-fund-raising event, including the cost of food. The two guest candidates have not been asked to contribute toward the expenses. The judge’s one-third share is expected to be approximately $500.
A candidate for judicial office may participate in his/her own campaign for judicial office during the applicable window period, subject to certain limitations (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A]; 100.5[A]). For example, a judicial candidate may not pay an assessment to, or make a contribution to, a political organization or any other candidate (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][h]) and “may not permit the use of campaign contributions or personal funds to pay for campaign-related goods or services for which fair value was not received” (22 NYCRR 100.5[A]).
In Joint Opinion 12-84/12-95, we considered whether a judicial candidate may permit others to attend his/her fund-raiser without charge. We noted “there are many legitimate reasons why a judicial candidate may wish to invite some individuals to attend his/her fund-raiser without charge (a practice frequently referred to as providing complimentary admission or ‘comping’) in furtherance of his/her judicial campaign” and concluded that there was no “ethical impediment to the long-standing practice of ‘comping’ attendees to the candidate’s own fund-raiser” (id.).
We believe similar principles apply here. Accordingly, the judge may participate in a free “meet and greet” with four non-judicial candidates, two of whom are attending for free. As three candidates are being asked to split the event expenses, the judge may pay his/her one-third share of the costs, as long as such amount does not exceed his/her proportionate share of the actual expenses for the event (see Opinion 91-94 [paying more than the candidate’s proportionate share of actual expenses would constitute an impermissible contribution]), and he/she concludes that the campaign will receive fair value for the expenditure (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A]; cf. Opinion 18-70 [candidate may use campaign funds to attend a charitable event, where the campaign will obtain fair value for the expense]).