IECDB AO 2004-06
June 23, 2004
Mark J. Arentsen
City of Waukee
Waukee City Hall
230 Highway 6
Waukee, Iowa 50263
This opinion is in response to your letter of May 4, 2004, in which you request an opinion from the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. We note at the outset that the Board’s jurisdiction is limited to the application of Iowa Code chapters 68A and 68B and rules in Iowa Administrative Code chapter 351.
We understand that you request this opinion in your capacity as the City Administrator/Clerk for the City of Waukee. You advise us that the city council is interested in permitting candidates to appear briefly at the beginning of a council meeting and give presentations on their candidacies. The council meetings are televised live and then rebroadcast several times over your local cable TV access channel.
Based on the factual statement that you have provided, we understand you ask the following questions:
1. Do the campaign laws prohibit the city from allowing candidates to appear at city council meetings to discuss their candidacies?
2. Would the television broadcasts be giving candidates free campaign airtime in violation of the campaign laws?
In answer to your first question, the Board has previously held that the prohibition on the use of public resources for a political purpose in Iowa Code section 68A.505 does not apply to a candidate forum so long as all candidates for a particular office are invited to participate. In addition, it serves a public purpose for the citizens of Waukee to hear the positions of the candidates. Thus, we believe the situation you describe does not violate Iowa Code section 68A.505 and it would be permissible for candidates to appear at the council meetings.
Turning to your second question, so long as
the invitation was extended to all candidates for a particular
office, then we do not believe the campaign laws would prohibit
the live broadcast or any rebroadcasts of the council meeting.1
BY DIRECTION AND VOTE OF THE BOARD
James Albert, Board Chair
Phyllis Peters, Vice Chair
Submitted by: W. Charles Smithson, Board Legal Counsel
1See for example Board rule 351—4.51 that discusses media organizations hosting candidate debates. The Federal Communications Commission may also have regulations concerning candidates having equal access of time on television.