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Aggregate Use of FEC Data on PAC Contributors Okay, Agency Says

February 26, 2021 by TWN Staff
"I voted" stickers in San Diego. (John Gibbins/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)

WASHINGTON – An independent political committee’s use of aggregate contribution data related to PACs does not run afoul of the Federal Election Campaign Act, the Federal Elections Commission said. 

Full Employment Now-Political Action Committee is an independent expenditure-only political committee that engages members of Congress and Congressional candidates in the hopes of their supporting the creation of federal jobs programs to provide living-wage work to all Americans. 

As part of that effort, FEN-PAC proposes to inform those members and candidates of both the number of PAC contributors who live in their state or district and the collective amount those donors have contributed to the organization. 

The Federal Election Campaign Act requires a political committee to report the name, mailing address, occupation, and employer of any individual who contributes more than $200 to the committee in a calendar year.  

The Act also requires the Commission to make these reports available for public inspection and copying. However, it also prohibits any information copied from Commission reports from being “sold or used by any person for the purpose of soliciting contributions or for commercial purposes.” 

During a hearing on Thursday, the commission noted that it has expressly held in the past that aggregated data and data that does not contain individual contributor’s contact information does not implicate the privacy concerns at the heart of the Act’s sale-or-use prohibition.  

Moreover, it said, it has repeatedly approved the use of aggregated contribution data obtained from Commission reports, so long as that data is not used by the committee or third parties to solicit contributions or to sell other products or services. 

The commission concluded the FEN-Pac’s proposal is permissible because nothing in the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 or the agency’s regulations prohibit the proposed use of aggregate contributor data in communications with officeholders or candidates. 

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