May 18, 2000

To all interested persons:

Pursuant to Iowa Code section 68B.32A(11), the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board takes the opportunity to issue its opinion on the issue of individuals using campaign funds for the purpose of paying membership dues to belong to a chamber of commerce. We note at the outset that the Board's jurisdiction is limited to the application of Iowa Code chapters 56 and 68B and rules in Iowa Administrative Code chapter 351. Whether some other statutory system, common law theory or agency rule applies to this issue is not covered by this opinion.


Iowa Code section 56.41(2) in pertinent part states:

"Campaign funds shall not be used for any of the following purposes:

g. Membership in professional organizations.

h. Membership in service organizations, except those organizations which the candidate joins solely for the purpose of enhancing the candidacy."

The Board believes that a chamber of commerce is not a "professional organization", but is rather a "service organization". Thus, campaign funds could be used to pay membership dues to the chamber if membership is "for the purpose of enhancing the candidacy". We understand that membership in the chamber allows the candidate to have certain benefits that are not available to non-members such as access to membership mailing lists, attendance at meetings and events with influential community leaders and access to individuals who are actively involved with campaigns and legislative issues. All of these benefits would enhance an individual's candidacy. Therefore, candidates would be permitted to use campaign funds to pay membership dues to join a chamber of commerce.


Bernard McKinley, Board Chair 
Geraldine Leinen, 1st Vice-Chair 
James Albert, 2nd Vice-Chair
Gwen Boeke
Mark McCormick 
Phyllis Peters


Submitted by: W. Charles Smithson, Board Legal Counsel


Iowa Code section 56.41 is now section 68A.302; see also Iowa Admin Code rule 4.25(1)(t)