OPINION NUMBER - 018

ADOPTED - 1978/08/11

SUBJECT - Credit Card Contributions

REQUESTED BY: Larry Schwartz, President, National Order Systems, Inc.

QUESTION: May contribution be made to candidates and campaign committees by means of charging the same to credit cards?

CONCLUSION

Yes.

FACTS

It is our understanding that National Order Systems, Inc. is a nationwide toll-free answering service which processes pledges and contributions resulting from advertising on radio and TV via toll-free phone calls. A political commercial is broadcast giving a toll-free number which listeners or viewers can call to make contributions. National Order Systems, Inc., would receive the call, record the name, address, amount and credit card number of the contributor on a credit card slip or voucher and then send the same to the candidate or committee or directly to the committee's bank for deposit in its account. The account would have to be in a bank that processes VISA or Master Charge transactions.

National Order Systems, Inc., advises that any information required can be furnished to the receiving candidate, committee or committee treasurer daily in tabular form like a computer print out, and that since credit cards are held by individuals, corporate, union, association and out-of-state contributions would not be involved.

It is our understanding of the foregoing procedure that the payee in such transactions is not National Order Systems, Inc., but the candidate or committee.

ANALYSIS

Section 49-1471 of the Act provides as follows:

A contribution or expenditure of more than fifty dollars shall not be made or accepted in cash. Contributions and expenditures of more than fifty dollars, other than an in-kind contribution or expenditure, shall be made by written instrument containing the names of the payor and the payee.

Section 49-1472 prohibits anonymous contributions except contributions received as the result of a fund raising event that are fifty dollars or less. A fund raising event as defined in section 49-1422 "shall mean an event as a dinner, reception, testimonial, rally, auction, bingo, or similar affair through which contributions are solicited or received by such means as purchase of a ticket, payment of an attendance fee, donations or chances for prizes, or through purchase of goods or services."

Section 49-1447 requires a campaign committee treasurer to record the name and address of each person from whom a contribution is received except for anonymous contributions of fifty dollars or less from a fund raising event.

It is clear that contributions of fifty dollars or less transferred to the committee on a credit card slip for deposit to the account of the committee setting forth the name and address of the contributor and the amount would not contravene and would satisfy the requirements of section 49-1471 and 49-1447.

Section 49-1475 provides:

Any person who accepts a contribution, other than by written instrument, on behalf of another and acts as the intermediary or agent of the person from whom the contribution was accepted shall disclose to the recipient of the contribution the intermediary's own name and address and the name and address of the actual source of the contribution.

Section 49-1477 provides:

No person shall receive a contribution from a person other than a committee unless, for purposes of the recipient person's record keeping and reporting requirements, the contribution is accompanied by the name and address of each person who contributed more than $100 to the contribution.

With respect to contributions of over fifty dollars, the Commission takes the position that the credit card slip or voucher would constitute a written instrument containing the names of the payor and payee and would not be a cash transaction. The credit card slip contains all of the elements necessary for a written instrument for the payment of money and would contain the names of the payor and the payee, namely the credit card company as payor and the campaign committee as payee, notwithstanding that the relationship between the credit card company and the contributor is one of creditor and debtor. Further, the provisions of the statutes cited above are also met by the methods proposed to be used by National Order Systems, Inc., in that the credit card slip could be accompanied by the name and address of National Order Systems, Inc., as an intermediary or agent, and, disclose the name and address of the actual source of the contribution, namely the credit card holder. In any case since the credit card voucher or slip constitutes a written instrument containing the names of the payor and payee, and National Order Systems, Inc. can supply the information otherwise required by the sections cited above, including its own identity as an intermediary, credit card transaction, regardless of amount if handled in the manner described in the Statement of Facts, would be permissible under the Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Act.