Serving on committee to elect Register of Probate

May 22, 1996

Opinion 96-5

Dear:

The Committee has received your request for advice dated April 11, 1996. In it, you ask whether you may play a "behind the scenes" role in supporting a friend's candidacy for Register of Probate in your court. Specifically, you have been asked to serve on a committee to elect her. You also inquire whether you may plan strategies with others about campaign issues, tell personal acquaintances of your support and encourage them to vote, or make anonymous telephone calls on her behalf. You also ask if your domestic partner may hold a fundraising gathering in your home and if you may attend such a gathering.

The general prohibition on political activity contained in Canon 6 would prohibit your service on a committee to elect, your planning of election strategies on a candidate's behalf, as well as your endorsement of the candidate to others, which would in the Committee's view be considered political "activity." As we noted in opinion No. 92-3 , any telephone calls on behalf of a candidate in which you identify yourself by name or position would also be the type of political activity prohibited by Canon 6.

The Committee has previously interpreted the Canon to prohibit attendance at fundraising events because of the perception that such an appearance constitutes an endorsement, prohibited by Canon 6(2). See opinions No. 90-1 , 94-4 . Such an endorsement is in the Committee's view "public" even if it occurs within a private residence and, in our opinion, the Code would prohibit attendance at such a gathering held by your domestic partner regardless of where it is held. As noted in opinion No. 94-4 , attendance at "dances, testimonial dinners or other social events where some fundraising may occur must be weighed by each clerk magistrate on the merits of the occasion and the potential message that attendance will broadcast." Your domestic partner is free, however, to work on behalf of a chosen candidate.