Attending political fundraiser

August 4, 2004

Opinion 2004-4

Dear Assistant Clerk:

This letter is in response to your request of June 18, 2004 for an opinion from the Committee. In your request you relayed the following facts. You are the Assistant Clerk of the Court. You were recently given a hand-out announcing a fundraiser to benefit the John Kerry Campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and MOVE On.org.PAC. The hand-out, which you included with your request, is titled "Artist's Fundraiser for Kerry for President". It states that a fine art auction to benefit the John Kerry Campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and MOVE ON.org PAC will be held on July 7 at an art gallery. It further states that all work is artist donated and all proceeds will be donated to the campaign. You ask the Committee's opinion on whether you may: 1) attend the function (as a private citizen and not in any representative capacity); 2) bid on items, thereby making a contribution; and 3) make monetary contributions to the organizations to the full extent otherwise allowed by law.

By this letter, the Committee confirms the advice that was provided to you from the Secretary prior to the fundraiser event. In the view of the members, your attendance at the event would be prohibited by the Code of Professional Responsibility for Clerks of the Courts. Canon 6 of the Code requires that Clerk-Magistrates, other than elected Clerk-Magistrates, refrain from political activity. The Canon describes several types of political conduct which are specifically proscribed. Paragraph (2) provides that a Clerk-Magistrate shall not "make speeches for a political organization or candidate or publicly endorse a candidate for public office". Given the title of the event (Artist's Fundraiser for Kerry for President), the beneficiaries of the event (the Kerry campaign, the Democratic National Committee and MOVE ON.org PAC) and the fact that all proceeds from the event go to the campaign, the members believe that your attendance at the event would present the appearance of an endorsement of a political candidate. Because the event is purely political and held only for the purpose of raising funds, it is the opinion of the Committee that your attendance would be the kind of political activity and public endorsement that is prohibited by Canon 6 (see Opinions 94-4 , 95-4 , 2002-1 ).

Your second question is whether you may bid for items at the auction. Given our advice that your attendance would be improper, and assuming your question referred to your bidding on the items while attending the event, it is not necessary for us to address this question. Finally, you ask whether you may make monetary contributions to the organizations that are the beneficiaries of the fundraiser. It is the view of the Committee that the Code does not prohibit the contribution of funds to a candidate or organization. Other statutes or authorities may govern this question.