February 11, 2020

The PDC is considering an update of its guidance on how to apply the "primary purpose test," a standard derived from court decisions that helps determine whether an organization must register as a political committee.

State law defines "political committee" as "any person (except a candidate or an individual dealing with his or her own funds or property) having the expectation of receiving contributions or making expenditures in support of, or opposition to, any candidate or any ballot proposition."

Courts have developed the primary purpose test for determining the threshold of spending activity that meets the expenditure prong. Under this test, an organization making expenditures becomes a political committee only if it is determined that "a primary purpose" of the organization is to affect governmental decision-making by supporting or opposing candidates or ballot propositions.

This test is not expressly codified in law but was introduced soon after Fair Campaign Practices Act was enacted to address the questions raised about the scope of coverage. Courts have accepted and expounded on the test over time to provide guidance on determining who is required to report as a political committee.

PDC staff has drafted an update to the current interpretation to provide better guidance to the public and regulated community. The proposed revision is available at the PDC website.

The Commission seeks input on the proposal. Please email any written comments to the PDC by March 6, 2020.