Opinion: 98-146
December 3, 1998
Digest:    It is improper for a judge to permit a political party to hold a post-election fund-raising event to retire the judge's campaign debt, where it is intended that any contributions remaining after payment of the campaign indebtedness would belong to the party.

Rule:    22 NYCRR 100.0(Q);100.5(A);
            100.5(A)(1)(h); 100.5(A)(2);
            Opinion 96-31 (Vol. XIV).


            A judge-elect inquires if it is proper to allow the judge's political party to hold a post-election fund-raising event on behalf of the judge. The event would take place within six months of the judge's election and is therefore within the Window Period. 22 NYCRR 100.0(Q). The proceeds from the event would be used initially to retire the judge's campaign debt. But, any remaining balance would be contributed to the political party that nominated the judge for election to judicial office.

            Section 100.5(A) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct prohibits a judge from directly or indirectly engaging in any political activity unless specifically authorized. 22 NYCRR 100.5(A). In Opinion 96-31 (Vol. XIV), this Committee stated that a judge's campaign committee may hold a post-election fund-raising event, within the six-month Window Period, to pay outstanding election debts to third parties. Opinion 96-31 (Vol. XIV); 22 NYCRR 100.0(Q); 100.5(A)(2). But the permissibility of that particular activity in no way alters the specific prohibition against "soliciting funds for * * * or making a contribution to a political organization" 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(1)(h). In our view, that is precisely the effect of what is being proposed.

            Moreover, while a committee of responsible persons may solicit and accept reasonable campaign contributions on behalf of the judge's campaign, "a candidate shall not use or permit the use of campaign contributions for the private benefit of the candidate or others." 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(5). The word "others," in our opinion, includes a political party.

            Accordingly, it is the opinion of the Committee that it would not be proper for the judge to authorize this fund-raising event to take place, in light of the intention that excess funds raised beyond what is required to retire campaign debt would go to the political party.