September 4, 1996

Opinion 96-19

Whether a candidate may attend a
political rally and pay a fee to help
defray the cost of the rally
Canon 7A

Re: Committee on Standards Governing Judges
Your inquiry dated August 9, 1996

You wish to attend an "Ole Fashion Political Rally" sponsored by a local civic organization. All candidates are invited and allowed an opportunity to speak. The distinguishing factor in this inquiry is that each candidate who elects to attend is obligated to pay a $50 fee "to help defray the cost of this event."

The Committee see nothing wrong with the $50 contribution, provided, of course, that no actual fundraising is involved and that all money is in fact being spent to defray the cost of the rally. Canon 7A(1)(e) prohibits a candidate from making a contribution to a political organization or another candidate, or from purchasing tickets for "political party dinners or other functions." Your proposed conduct would not violate this Canon however, because Canon 7A addresses partisan political events.

In Committee Opinion 77-16, the Committee responded that a county judge may have his name and picture printed in the local high school football program and may donate $25 to the quarterback club "to help defray the cost of printing the program along with the other elected officials." In Committee Opinion 88-23, the inquiring judge asked whether a contribution of $100 to a non partisan entity to offset the cost of an "old fashioned campaign rally" is proscribed by the Code of Judicial Conduct. The majority of the responding members of the Committee found nothing offensive in a contribution to the cost of food and advertising associated with a non-partisan political event in which the judge appears on behalf of his own candidacy.

Accordingly, the Committee concludes that the mere provision of funds by a judicial candidate does not violate the code so long as the funds are used to pay for an otherwise legitimate matter. You may attend the rally and may make the $50 payment.

The committee is expressly charged with rendering advisory opinions interpreting the application of the Code of Judicial Conduct to specific circumstances confronting or affecting a judge or judicial candidate. Its opinions are advisory to the inquiring party, to the Judicial Qualifications Commission and to the judiciary at large. Conduct that is consistent with an advisory opinion issued by the committee may be evidence of good faith on the part of the judge, but the Judicial Qualifications Commission is not bound by the interpretive opinions issued by the committee. Petition of the Committee on Standards of Conduct for Judges, 327 So.2d 5 (Fla.1976).

Very truly yours.

Charles J. Kahn, Jr.
Chairman, Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges

cc: All Committee Members
Office of the State Courts Administrator
(name of judge deleted from this copy)

Participating Members: Judges Cardonne, Dell, Green, C. Kahn, L. Kahn, Rushing, Silverman, Smith, Tolton and Attorney Novicki