You are running for state or local office and have started to accept donations for your campaign. But you’ve heard that you would have to report your contributions and expenditures. Is this always the case? Not necessarily. The key is whether or not state law says you are a “committee.”
You can be considered a committee even if your campaign is a one-person show. What the law looks at is whether or not you’ve received $2,000 or more in contributions in a calendar year. If you’ve received less than $2,000 for that calendar year, then you might be off the hook.
I say might because there are other activities that can turn you into a committee. You could be a committee if you make independent expenditures totaling $1,000 or more in a calendar year. Further, you could be a committee if you make contributions totaling $10,000 or more in a calendar to candidate and committees.
Note that these additional activities aren’t quite noted in the FPPC handbook but they are something you should be aware of even when you aren’t receiving that many contributions.
Suppose that you are below the threshold amount for any of the above-mentioned activities and therefore are not a committee. What are your obligations? If you are raising and spending any money at all, at minimum be sure to file a Form 501 (Candidate Intention Statement) and establish a campaign bank account separate from your personal account. You may also file a Form 470 to inform the Secretary of State of what committees are involved in your campaign.
But if you are a committee, this is where you have to worry about campaign reporting. Expect to file a form 501 (Candidate Intention Statement) and Form 410 (Statement of Organization). You’ll also be required to have a treasurer (which could be yourself) and a separate bank account. Further, you’ll have to report semi-annually, a number of times before the election, and every time you receive a contribution of $1,000 or more.
Keep in mind that once you are considered a committee, you stay a committee even if you don’t meet the threshold amounts the following year. You’ll have to fill out a form to terminate your committee.
Regardless of whether you have to report, you’ll want to maintain some sort of system to keep track of your aggregate contributions and expenditures throughout the year – lest you run afoul of the FPPC. This could be a spreadsheet or ledger that you fill out every time you receive a contribution or make an expenditure.
In conclusion, the take-away from these byzantine rules is that generally you will not have to worry about reporting unless you receive $2,000 or more in contributions in a calendar year.
Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to serve as legal advice.