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Solicitation of Contributions

Solicitation of contributions.  This is in response to your letter in which you summarize your understanding of our telephone conversation relating to section (c) of rule G-37, on political contributions and prohibitions on municipal securities business. As I noted during our conversation, the Board’s rules, including rule G-37, apply solely to brokers, dealers and municipal securities dealers (“dealers”). The Board’s rulemaking authority, granted under Section 15B of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, does not extend to issuers of municipal securities. Thus, rule G-37 does not impose any obligations upon issuers or officials of issuers. Although the Board appreciates your interest in not placing dealers and their associated persons in a position to violate their obligations under the rule, it is ultimately the responsibility of such dealers and associated persons, in consultation with appropriate compliance personnel, to ensure compliance with Board rules.

As you know, rule G-37(c) provides that no dealer or municipal finance professional shall solicit any person or political action committee to make any contribution, or shall coordinate any contributions, to an official of an issuer with which the dealer is engaging or is seeking to engage in municipal securities business. The Board has previously stated that this provision would:

prohibit a dealer and any municipal finance professional from soliciting . . . any other person or entity, to make contributions to an official of an issuer with which the dealer engages or is seeking to engage in municipal securities business or to coordinate (i.e., bundle) contributions. . .[*] [M]unicipal finance professionals may volunteer their personal services in other ways to political campaigns.[1]

You had sought guidance regarding what activities would be covered by this provision of the rule. As you noted in your letter, I had indicated that the term “solicit” is not explicitly defined for purposes of section (c) of the rule. I had stated that whether a particular activity can be characterized as a solicitation of a contribution for purposes of section (c) is dependent upon the facts and circumstances surrounding such activity. I had noted, however, that the rule does not prohibit or restrict municipal finance professionals from engaging in personal volunteer work, unless such work constituted solicitation or bundling of contributions for an official of an issuer with which the municipal finance professional’s dealer is engaging or seeking to engage in municipal securities business[2] Municipal finance professionals are therefore free to, among other things, solicit votes or other assistance for such an issuer official so long as the solicitation does not constitute a solicitation or coordination of contributions for the official. [3]


Whether a municipal finance professional is permitted by section (c) of the rule to indicate to third parties that someone is a “great candidate” or to provide a list of third parties for the candidate to call would be dependent upon all the facts and circumstances surrounding such action. The facts and circumstances that may be relevant for this purpose may include, among any number of other factors, whether the municipal finance professional has made an explicit or implicit reference to campaign contributions in his or her conversations with third parties whom the candidate may contact and whether the candidate contacts such third parties seeking campaign contributions. However, the totality of the facts and circumstances surrounding any particular activity must be considered in determining whether such activity may constitute a solicitation of contributions for purposes of section (c) of the rule. Therefore, the Board cannot prescribe an exhaustive list of precautions that would assure that no violation of this section would occur as a result of such activity.  MSRB interpretation of May 21, 1999.

[1] MSRB Reports, Vol. 14, No. 3 (June 1994) at 5. See Securities Exchange Act Release No. 33868 (April 7, 1994), 59 FR 17621 (April 13, 1994). See also Questions and Answers Concerning Political Contributions and Prohibitions on Municipal Securities Business: Rule G-37, May 24, 1994, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book; MSRB Interpretation of November 7, 1994, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book; MSRB Interpretation of May 31, 1995, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book. Furthermore, the Board stated in its filing of the rule with the Securities and Exchange Commission that the rule’s “anti-solicitation and anti-bundling proscriptions are intended to prohibit covered parties from: (i) soliciting others, including spouses and family members, to make contributions to issuer officials; and (ii) coordinating, or soliciting others to coordinate, contributions to issuer officials in order to influence the awarding of municipal securities business.” SEC File No. SR-MSRB-94-2.

[2] See Question and Answer No. 24, May 24, 1994, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book; Question and Answer No. 3, August 18, 1994, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book. In addition, if the municipal finance professional used dealer resources or incurred expenses that could be considered contributions in the course of undertaking such volunteer work, the ban on municipal securities business under section (b) of the rule could be triggered.


[3] In upholding the constitutionality of rule G-37, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit observed that “municipal finance professionals are not in any way restricted from engaging in the vast majority of political activities, including making direct expenditures for the expression of their views, giving speeches, soliciting votes, writing books, or appearing at fundraising events.” Blount v. SEC, 61 F.3d 938, 948 (D.C. Cir. 1995), cert. denied, 116 S. Ct. 1351 (1996). However, the Board has stated that hosting or paying to attend a fundraising event may constitute a contribution subject to section (b) of the rule. See Questions and Answers Nos. 24 and 29, May 24, 1994, reprinted in MSRB Rule Book.

[*][sentence deleted to reflect current rule provisions.]