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Follow The Money: Non-Monetary Campaign Donations

In the latest installment of the “Follow the Money” series, we examined the details behind what candidates can accept in contributions other than cash. These can include donations of items, supplies, property and professional services. Even though these donations don’t involve an exchange of cash, they must be properly reported by the candidate in his or her finance reports.

Aired 5/7/12 on KPBS News.

In the latest installment of the “Follow the Money” series, we examined the details behind what candidates can accept in contributions other than cash.

Q: What are included in non-monetary campaign donations?

A: There are a wide variety of examples, but basically anything that is of value to a campaign must be reported publicly. Refreshments at a campaign event, or the cost of the meeting place for the event itself, are a couple examples.

These donations must be of fair value. For instance, if a restaurant owner allows a candidate to use a banquet room in his restaurant for a campaign event, the cost of the room must be what it would cost for any person to rent it.

Another example would be loan forgiveness. If a candidate receives a campaign loan from a friend, and a friend later forgives or reduces the amount owed, that needs to be reported.

Q: Are there any regulations governing amounts of these contributions?

A: Yes, and they are just like the regulations on monetary contributions. Individuals may not give a candidate anything worth more than five hundred dollars per election, and organizations are not allowed to contribute to candidates.

Q: In a previous installment, we discussed candidates donating money to their own campaigns. Can a candidate do the same for non-monetary donations?

A: Yes, and just like monetary donations, a candidate can donate as many items to his campaign as he wants. It must be reported differently, though. For instance, if a candidate wants to donate office supplies to his campaign, he can’t go out and buy pens and paper from his personal checking account and “donate” the supplies. He must put that money into his campaign account first, and then buy the supplies from there.

Q: Are there any exceptions to these guidelines?

A: Volunteers who donate their time to help a candidate, with no expectation of reimbursement, would not be considered in violation of the limit on service donations.

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