Contributions from the candidate’s personal funds or from a bona fide political party or caucus political committee may be spent at any time in the election cycle. Contributions tied to primary or general election limits are treated differently. It is a violation to spend any general election contribution for the primary election campaign, if to do so would cause the contributor of those general election funds to exceed the contribution limit for the primary election.
The simplest way to avoid spending general election contributions for the primary election is to keep the entire balance of general-designated contributions in the campaign account until the date of the primary election has passed. However, with careful accounting and record-keeping, a candidate may spend general-designated contributions on general election campaign expenses during the primary election without exceeding limits, provided that the goods and services purchased are not used in the candidate’s primary election campaign.
For example, if a contributor (other than the candidate, a bona fide political party or caucus political committee) gives a legislative candidate $1,500, the contributor has given $1,000 for the primary and $500 for the general election. The $500 in general-designated contributions may be kept on hand until the candidate wins the primary and moves on to the general election. Alternatively, the candidate may use the $500 during the primary election to pre-pay for radio or TV airtime, signs, or other print political advertising that will be used only in the general election. (Other goods and services may qualify for pre-payment in this manner, so long as the candidate is prepared to document that the goods and services were not used for the primary election.) As discussed above, if the candidate loses in the primary or is otherwise not a candidate in the general election, the $500 general election contribution must be returned to the contributor. If the candidate has spent the general election contribution and it is not possible to obtain a refund from the vendor, the candidate must use personal funds or contributions from a bona fide political party or caucus political committee to “cover” the refund owed to the contributor.