5-4 Political Committee Mailings
5-4.1 Applying the Cooperative Mail Rules
Qualified political committees are subject to the cooperative mailing
requirements. However, unlike cases involving cooperative mailings between
an authorized nonprofit organization and a commercial organization, there is
often an ongoing relationship between the qualified political committee and
the committee's candidate.
A political candidate may be connected to the authorized political committee
mailer by being a member of and/or financial contributor to the political party
represented by the committee. The committee is, of course, interested in
promoting, encouraging, and supporting the candidate's election.
Postal laws and regulations do not prohibit the candidate from contributing to
the committee or the committee from supporting the candidate. The concern
under postal laws and regulations is whether the political candidate's financial
contribution to the authorized political committee is in return for the mailing or
mailings that support the candidate. (See CSR PS-055.)
Example: Proper Use of Contributed Funds
Politician A is a member of the qualified political committee. The
qualified political committee plans to include in a mailpiece information
supporting politician A's candidacy for office and has asked the
candidate for a biographical sketch. The candidate provides the
information and makes a contribution to the qualified political
committee. The qualified political committee will retain authority to
accept or reject information provided by the candidate, and the
contribution by the candidate is not a contribution to pay for the mailing.
This is not considered to be a cooperative mailing because the qualified
political committee retained discretion over the decision to mail and the
contents of the mailing.
5-4.2 Maintaining Committee Control
An authorized political committee may mail election-related materials,
including but not limited to candidate endorsements and sample ballots, at
the nonprofit rates if the materials are exclusively those of the authorized
political committee. An authorized political committee may make political
mailings in support of its candidates, provided that no monies contributed by
the candidate to the qualified committee shall be specifically earmarked for
use in making the political mailing or in return for the political mailing.
Example: Committee Discretion Retained
Politician B, a candidate for a statewide political office, mails a check to
authorized political committee C, the state committee for his party.
Politician B encloses a note with the check that says: "This check is for
my pro rata share of a sample ballot." Committee C has mailed a
sample ballot to state residents for the past five elections. However,
committee C makes the decision on whether to send sample ballots on
an election-by-election basis. Committee C has not had any
discussions with politician B on this subject, nor has it reached an
understanding with politician B that sample ballots will be produced and
mailed. Committee C deposits politician B's check into its general fund
to be used for committee expenses. Committee C will not return the
check even if it decides not to mail sample ballots. Committee C later
decides to mail sample ballots for the election in which politician B is a
candidate. Notwithstanding politician B's contribution, this is not
considered to be a cooperative mailing because committee C retained
discretion whether or not to mail the sample ballots.
A candidate may make or solicit contributions to a qualified political
committee, provided that the committee retains absolute discretion over how
the funds are spent. If the candidate or other nonqualified entity pays the
preparation, printing, or postage costs for the mailing in return for the
qualified political committee's agreement to make the mailing, that mail
matter is not eligible for the nonprofit rates.
A political candidate may provide suggested copy, pictures, biographical
information, or similar assistance requested by a qualified political committee
that is preparing a mailing in support of the candidate. The qualified political
committee may also ask a candidate to review a proposed mailpiece for
accuracy. However, the qualified political committee must have final authority
over the decision to mail the political matter and the contents of that matter.
Example: Improper Candidate Funding
Authorized political committee D announces the creation of a
"Candidate's Coordinated Mailing Fund." Contributions to the fund will
be used exclusively for mailings supporting candidates. Candidates E,
F, G, and H contribute to the fund, and committee D makes a
multi-candidate endorsement for candidates E, F, G, H, and I. This
would be considered a cooperative mailing. It would not be a
cooperative mailing if (a) the fund created is not announced as one that
will be used exclusively for mailings, and (b) committee D retained
absolute discretion as to whether or not to make the mailings at all.
5-4.3 Endorsements on Mail
Mailings by qualified political committees often bear endorsements such as
"Paid for by [committee] and authorized by [candidate]." These endorsements
are often required by federal or state law. The presence of these
endorsements alone does not disqualify the mailing from being sent at the
nonprofit rates. The presence of factors discussed in the preceding sections
of this chapter is required to find the mailing ineligible for the nonprofit rates.