REQUESTED BY: Senator Rex Haberman, Forty Fourth Legislative District.
QUESTION: May campaign funds be used to purchase a camera so that pictures may be taken of the candidate speaking to service clubs and other groups?
You indicate that you would like to purchase a camera with campaign funds. This camera would be used to take pictures of yourself and events for use during your campaign. You further state that there is no daily paper in the ten counties which comprise your district, only weekly papers. Because of the distances between cities and villages in your district, it is not practical for the weekly newspapers in your district to send photographers about taking pictures of you. You consider the purchase of the camera to be a means by which you can overcome this particular difficulty.
Section 49-1446.01 states that "no committee, other than a political party committee, may expend or transfer funds except to make an expenditures as defined in subsection (1), (2), or (3) or Section 49-1419 . . .". Section 49-1419 defines expenditures as "a payment . . . in assistance of, or opposition to, the nomination or election of a candidate . . .". The key question appears to be whether or not the purchase of the camera is in assistance of the nomination or election of a candidate.
Section 49-1446.01 was adopted in 1981 as part of LB134. During the floor debate Senator Beutler said:
"So I know that Senator Haberman and some others outstate were troubled by whether going out to give a speech to a particular Kiwanis Club or Rotary Club about political matters was covered or not covered and we are saying explicitly in this amendment what I think would have been said had this, even without this amendment, that those types of expenditures are acceptable campaign expenditures." - Floor Debate on LB134, April 29,1981, at page 4076.
Clearly, expenditures surrounding the giving of speeches at service clubs within your district on political matters are legitimate campaign expenditures. However, further analysis is needed in order to determine if the cost of taking photographs of these events are also legitimate campaign expenditures.
In Advisory Opinion #60 we stated that the use of Campaign Funds must be reasonably related to campaigning. In Advisory Opinion #86 we advise that "one must look to the purpose of the expenditure to determine whether it may be made with campaign funds".
If the photographs taken are to be used for campaign purposes, then the cost of taking the photographs, including the cost of the camera, are legitimate campaign expenses.
We understand from your request for this opinion that you will occasionally make personal use of the camera. In such cases, you state that you will reimburse the campaign committee for the cost of the film and its development. We believe that this is an appropriate course of action.
Just as you have pointed out that there is a difference between the use of the camera for campaign purposes and the use of the camera for personal purposes, you should also understand that there is a difference between the use of this equipment for campaign purposes and the use of the equipment for purposes associated with your holding a public office. If you use the camera in connection with your holding a public office, again you would be required to reimburse your campaign committee for the cost of the film and its development. Consistent with Advisory Opinion #60, the camera would remain the property of the committee.
Since any use of the camera for personal or office holding purposes should result in your reimbursing your campaign committee, you should keep records of these types of transactions. The records are necessary since the receipt of these funds by your campaign committee is a matter which must be reported when you file Campaign Statements.