The Road to the March 7, 2017 Election – Part 3: Committee Responsibilities

This series will provide a cursory overview of the steps needed to run for local office in Los Angeles County. The information provided is not intended to be legal advice. Readers should be cognizant that other local rules may apply in addition to state law.

This blog article expands on the discussion in Part 1 about candidates that spend or raise $2,000 or more in a calendar year.

If you spend less than that threshold, recall that you should file a Candidate Intention Statement and Officeholder Candidate Campaign Statement. You should also maintain detailed records of the contributions you receive and the expenditures that you make.

But if you do spend or raise $2,000 or more, you’ll be considered a committee. Committees have various legal responsibilities. A failure to meet these responsibilities, i.e. failing to file on time, could result in a FPPC enforcement action and fines. In short, committees have to:

  • File a Candidate Intention Statement.
  • File a Statement of Organization (thereby designating a treasurer).
  • Establish a bank account.
  • File Preelection Statements.
  • File 24-hour Contribution Reports.
  • File Semi-Annual Reports.
  • Keep detailed records.

Each of these responsibilities are further discussed below:

Candidate Intention Statement

You’ll need to file this statement with the Secretary of State to initiate nearly any financial activity for your campaign. You cannot solicit or receive contributions, or make expenditures until you file this statement. Because of this limitation, some candidates will file the Candidate Intention Statement before they even pull nomination papers in order to get started with fundraising and campaigning.

Statement of Organization

This is filed with the Secretary of State and your local filing officer (if applicable). Since this registers you as a committee, you are issued a committee identification number.

The Statement of Organization has you designate a treasurer. The treasurer is the person legally responsible for keeping detailed records, ensuring compliance, and verifying statements. Regardless of whether you designate yourself or another individual, it is important that a treasurer understands their duties because they can later be held responsible and fined for violations of campaign finance rules.

Establishing a Bank Account

A committee must establish a separate bank account in a bank located in California. The key thing is that nearly all campaign funds must go into the bank account and cannot be mixed with a candidate’s personal funds.

Preelection Statements

A candidate will have to file two preelection statements in the two months before the election. For the March 7, 2017 election, the first preelection statement is due January 26, 2017 and covers the period of January 1-21, 2017. The second preelection statement is due February 23, 2017 and covers the period of February 22-18, 2017.

24-hour Contribution Reports

In the 90 days before the election, candidates will have to watch out for large donations. Beginning December 7, 2016 until election day, a candidate who receives $1,000 or more from a single source will have to file a 24-hour Contribution Report. The same applies if the candidate makes a contribution of $1,000 or more. In either case, the amount must be reported within 24 hours or receiving or making the contribution.

Semi-Annual Statements

A committee has to file semi-annual statements. These statements are due twice a year on January 31 and July 31, respectively. They generally cover the first half of the calendar year and the last half of the calendar year. A reporting period is shorted accordingly if a committee has filed preelection statement that year.

Recordkeeping

You are required to follow certain practices to maintain detailed records of your committee’s financial activity. This includes not only maintaining bank statements for a period of four years but also keeping your own independent financial records. One requirement to highlight is the need to collect information from contributors. Depending on the amount of the contribution, this may include:

  • Date of contribution.
  • Contributor’s full name and address.
  • Total amount received from that contributor for that year.
  • Contributor’s occupation and employer.

The easiest way to meet this requirement and keep your money (you’ll have to refund the contribution if you omit collecting needed information) is to simply collect everything listed above regardless of the amount.

Closing Remarks

These are the committee obligations in a nutshell. It involves a fair amount of recordkeeping and filing statements in the interest of public transparency. Meeting these obligations will require you to sit down to review and understand the rules as well as calendaring deadlines. This can be tricky in the fury of campaigning while holding a full-time job (as many candidates do), but can be alleviated with an effective treasurer to keep you on top of things.