Common Campaign Finance and Reporting Mistakes
July 18, 2014
Reporting slip-ups happen, but no one likes to get error and omission notices. The Michigan Bureau of Elections analyzes campaign finance reports, and notices are sent for mistakes such as missing forms, incorrect figures or cumulative totals and missing required information. Below are some common mistakes taken from errors and omissions notices, along with explanations that can assist you in the filing of accurate reports.
Reporting Errors: Political Action Committees
Candidate Committee and Office Sought Not Tied Together
When reporting direct contribution expenditures from a PAC to a candidate committee, the contribution must also be tied to that candidate’s campaign. The expenditure should show both the candidate committee name (* below) and the Campaign/office sought (** below).
That ties the election cycle to the candidate, which then helps track the total amount given to a candidate in an election cycle (this is not the same as a candidates PAC or Leadership PAC).
[Data from Michigan Electronic Reporting and Tracking System—“MERTS”—software report]
PAC/Leadership Committee Connected to Office Sought
When reporting a contribution/expenditure to another PAC—even a candidate’s PAC—the candidate’s campaign (shown as, “office sought” in MERTS) should not be tied to the transaction. Leave item 5 blank! These are separate PACs and are not subject to the same contribution limits as a candidate committee.
Rules & Reporting Errors: Candidate Committees
Exceeding Contribution Limits from Individuals and PACS in an Election Cycle
Individuals & political PACS may not contribute more than $1k House, $2k Senate, $6,800 Governor, SoS, or AG—per election cycle—to a candidate committee.
Independent Committees are limited to $10k House, $20k Senate and $68k Governor, SoS, or AG—per election cycle. Remember, a House election cycle is two years; Senate, Gubernatorial, SoS & AG are each four years. Check and track your cumulative totals; excess contributions must be returned immediately!
There is a $100 limit per year for a candidate committee to purchase a fundraiser ticket for another candidate. The Committee must disclose on the campaign statement that the contribution was to support a fundraiser/purchase a ticket. Any other candidate committee-to-candidate committee contributions are prohibited.
Memo Itemizations-Reporting Expenditures to an Agent or Independent Contractor
When reporting a lump sum payment to an independent contractor or agent the name and address of the contractor/agent must be reported—plus the breakout amount—to any entity paid by the agent/contractor must also be noted under memo itemization.
Reporting Errors: Candidate Committees & PAC’s
Beginning Balance Must be the same as the Ending Balance of the Last Statement Filed
Incorrect coverage dates can throw balances off. Check to make sure the report “begin date” is one day after the close of the previous report. Overlapping coverage dates can bring transactions in from the last report, while a gap between dates can miss pulling in transactions altogether thereby changing a beginning or ending balance (Ex.: For April 21st – July 20th, 2014 reports, the next filing would be from July 21st – October 20th).
If a change was made to a transaction on a previously filed report it can also change the balance. If your balances are off, look for duplicate entries, data you may have changed or entries that may have been inadvertently entered with the wrong date.
DATES TO REMEMBER
Upcoming reporting period for PACS: July Quarterly due April 21st – July 20th, 2014
Filing deadline: July 25, 2014 by 5p.m.
Reporting for Candidate Committees:
Close of Books/Pre-Primary Campaign Statement: January 1, 2014—or date committee was formed—thru July 20, 2014.
Filing deadline: July 25, 2014 by 5:00pm
Primary Election: August 5, 2014
Post Primary reporting dates: July 21st thru August 25th, 2014
Filing deadline: September 4, 2014 by 5:00pm
Reminder of upcoming late contribution (e.g. “48 hour”) reports!
An Independent or Political Committee that participates in the primary election is required to file a Late Contribution Report if the committee…:
- Makes an expenditure during the late contribution reporting period to a candidate or ballot question appearing on the ballot; and
- Receives a single contribution or cumulative contribution from the same person of $2,500.00 or more during the late contribution-reporting period.
Late Contribution reports by candidates are required if a committee receives a single or cumulative contribution of $500 or more from the same contributor. This includes loans, in-kind contributions of goods or services, and contributions from the candidate. Late Contribution reporting dates for the August 5th Primary are 7/21/2014 – 8/2/2014.
Of course, the content above is meant to serve only as a guide. Every filing situation is different and you should always call me or email your questions (517/482-5311 or Lfarnum1@gmail.com), visit the Bureau of Elections for more information (http://www.michigan.gov/sos/0,4670,7-127-1633_8723—,00.html) or consult with your attorney.