Travel Rules

The WSJ’sFinance Rules Not Clear-Cut” actually cites a few FEC regulations and refers to an advisory opinion.

In 1977, the Federal Election Commission sought to prevent politicians and others campaigning for them from getting free travel to political events on donors’ corporate planes or government flights. Thus, paragraph 106.3(b)(3) of Title 11 of the Code of Federal Regulations was born, requiring campaigns to foot the bill for an entire leg of a trip if it includes anything more than “incidental” campaign work. Classifying and reporting these trips requires lawyers to examine all a candidate’s activities and sometimes measure hypothetical legs of a multistop tour to keep payments separate.

Then in 1995, the commission felt compelled to respond to a scandal over candidates taking vacations on the campaign’s bill or otherwise using campaign money as a personal bank account simply by including a token campaign element in their expenses. The FEC created a “personal use” prohibition that required candidates and others working on their behalf to pay out of their own pockets certain expenses that would have existed irrespective of the campaign — and blocking the candidates from being reimbursed by the campaign for such expenses. This one is paragraph 113.1(g) of Title 11 in the same code.

In 2002, the commission recognized the contradiction between 106.3(b)(3) and 113.1(g) in an advisory opinion requested by the city of Bettendorf, Iowa. The mayor made an official visit to Washington with other dignitaries, but stayed longer to attend a candidate training event. As the training was on personal time and the trip would have happened anyway, the commission ruled that her campaign didn’t need to reimburse the city for the airfare.

Section 106.3(c)(1)-(2) provides:

(c)(1) Where an individual, other than candidate, conducts campaign-related activities on a trip, the portion of the trip attributed to each candidate shall be allocated on a reasonable basis.

(2) Travel expenses of a candidate’s spouse and family are reportable as expenditures only if the spouse or family members conduct campaign-related activities.

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