Opinion 98-107

September 10, 1998




Digest:        On the facts presented, a candidate for judicial office should not pay $3,000 for a ticket to a political fund-raising dinner on behalf of an Assemblyman running for re-election and election as District Leader.


Rule:           Election Law §17-162; 22 NYCRR 100.0(2); 100.5(A)(1)(h); 100.5(A)(2); 100.5(A)(2)(v).


         A candidate for elective judicial office states:


I have been advised that I will be invited to a fund raiser on behalf of my local Assemblyman. He is currently running for re-election. He is also running for District Leader in the district in which I reside. The cost to attend is $3,000 per ticket for all invited guests.


The inquirer asks whether it is permissible "to purchase a ticket and attend this dinner."

         Cited by the inquirer is section 100.5(A)(2)(v) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, which provides that a judge or non-judge candidate for public election to judicial office may, during the Window Period (see 22 NYCRR 100.0[Q]), "purchase two tickets to, and attend, politically sponsored dinners and other functions even where the cost of the ticket to such dinner or other function exceeds the proportionate cost of the dinner or function." 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(2)(v).

         That section, in the view of the Committee, constitutes a recognition of the perceived necessity for candidates for judicial office to attend political dinners and functions during the course of the electoral season. Given that apparent necessity, it seems appropriate that the ethical propriety of attendance should not be dependent upon a judicial candidate's first ascertaining in each and every instance whether there is a dollar-for-dollar equivalency between cost and price on a proportionate basis. Nonetheless, such permission is not intended to erase the prohibition against "making a contribution to a political organization or candidate" other than in support of one's own candidacy for judicial office. 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(1)(h), 100.5(A)(2). That prohibition applies both to sitting judges and non-judge candidates for judicial office. Further, Election Law §17-162, explicitly prohibits indirect political contributions:


§17-162. Judicial candidates not to contribute


No candidate for a judicial office shall, directly or indirectly, make any contribution of money or other thing of value, nor shall any contribution be solicited of him; but a candidate for a judicial office may make such legal expenditures, other than
contributions, authorized by this chapter.


(L.1976, c.233, §1; amended L.1978, c.373, §109.)

         In the opinion of the Committee, a payment of $3,000 for a ticket to this dinner, under the particular circumstances stated, can only be regarded as an impermissible political contribution to a candidate for two elective political offices, one of which is an internal political party position. The disparity between price and any conceivable cost is of such dimension as to lead to no other conclusion. The Committee, therefore, advises that the inquirer should not purchase a ticket to this particular event at a price of $3,000.

         This opinion is limited to the specific facts of the inquiry. It is not intended to prescribe an amount that would be allowable nor does it proscribe purchase of a ticket other than the one specified in the inquiry under the circumstances presented.