The treasurer is responsible for complying with recordkeeping requirements, even if he or she appoints someone else to keep the committee’s records. Advisory Opinion (AO) 1995-10.
The treasurer is responsible for:
• Keeping required records on all receipts and disbursements. 102.9(a) and (b)(1); see also 104.3(a)(2), (a)(4), (b)(1), and (b)(3). (Specific requirements are explained below.)
• Retaining a copy of each statement, disclosure report and notice filed under the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act), along with original backup records relevant to the report or notice (such as bank statements, paid invoices, etc.). 104.14(b)(1) and (2).
• Preserving the above records for 3 years after the related report or statement is filed and making them available to the Commission upon request. 102.9(c) and 104.14(b)(3).
• Exercising “best efforts” to obtain, maintain and report required information and keeping a complete written record on such efforts for the required 3-year period. 102.9 (d). See below.
With respect to receipts, the Act requires that records be kept only for contributions. Nevertheless, committees are advised to keep records on all receipts in order to comply with the reporting requirements (Chapter 12).
For each receipt, a treasurer should record the following information:
• Amount received;
• Date of receipt; and
• Name and address of source. See 102.9(a)(1).
Records must additionally identify the occupation and employer of an individual contributor whose contribution exceeds $200 or aggregates over $200 when added to previous contributions made during the calendar year. 100.12 and 102.9(a)(2).
Contributions over $50
In addition to any other recordkeeping requirements, committees must retain a full-size photocopy or digital image of the check for any contribution over $50. 102.9(a)(4).
Small Contributions Collected at Fundraising Event
When a committee receives a large number of contributions of $50 or less at a fundraising event, records need identify only the name of the event and the total amount received on each day of the event. AOs 1981-48 and 1980-99. These amounts are reported under the category “unitemized contributions from individuals."
Small Contributions Collected Through Tax Checkoff
When a committee receives small contributions in the form of state tax checkoff funds (see page 10), records on individual contributors are not required. The contributions are reported as “unitemized contributions from individuals.” AO 1983-15. However, the committee must keep a record of the state government source, the date of receipt and the amount received.
For each reattributed contribution, a committee must keep a copy of the reattribution as well as documentation verifying that the reattribution was received within 60 days after the committee’s receipt of the original contribution. If these records are not kept, the reattribution is not effective. 102.9(f); 110.1(k)(3)(ii)(A); 110.1(l)(3), (5) and (6).
Possibly Illegal Contributions
A committee must keep a written record noting the basis for concern for each deposited contribution that:
• Requires a written reattribution from the contributor; or
• Requires confirmation that it is not from a prohibited source. 103.3(b)(5).
Date of Receipt
A contribution’s date of receipt is the date on which the person receiving the contribution on behalf of the committee obtains possession of it. 102.8(a) and (b)(2). That is the date used for recordkeeping and reporting.
The date of receipt may be earlier than the date the committee treasurer receives the money, since a person collecting contributions (other than an authorized agent) has 10 days (or 30 days for contributions of $50 or less) in which to forward them to the treasurer. 102.8(b). (See “Forwarding Contributions.")
Contributions Charged on Credit Cards
When the committee receives contributions through credit card charges, the date of receipt is the date on which the committee receives the contributor’s signed authorization to charge the contribution. The treasurer should retain a copy of the authorization form in the committee’s records. See, e.g., AO 1990-4; see also AOs 1995-9 and 1999-22.
The date of receipt for an in-kind contribution is the date the goods or services are provided to the committee, even if the contributor pays the bill for the goods or services after they are provided. See 110.1(b)(6).
(For information on how to determine the value an in-kind contribution, see here.)
Deposit of Receipts
Once the treasurer (or authorized agent) receives a contribution or other receipt, he or she must deposit it within 10 days. Contributions not deposited within 10 days must be returned to their donors. 103.3(a).
Check and Cash Disbursements
Disbursements must be made by check or similar draft drawn on an account maintained at the committee’s designated campaign depository. 102.10 and 103.3(a).
A committee may make disbursements from a petty cash fund, but petty cash payments to one person for any one purchase or transaction may not exceed $100. 102.11.
Regardless of whether a disbursement is made by check or from a petty cash fund, the required recordkeeping information must be maintained.
Each disbursement must be identified by:
• Amount of payment;
• Name and address of payee; and
• Purpose of disbursement (a brief explanation of why the disbursement was made, such as “dinner expenses” or “postage”). 102.9(b)(1).
Disbursements Exceeding $200
For each disbursement of more than $200, the committee must keep a receipt, invoice or canceled check (in addition to the information above). 102.9(b)(2).
Contributions and Expenditures on Behalf of Candidates
A committee must keep the following records on contributions and expenditures made on behalf of candidates:
• Name of candidate and office sought by candidate, including the state and, for House candidates, Congressional district (102.9(b)(1)(ii) and (iii)); and
• Election for which a contribution was made (to facilitate reporting).
Credit Card Transactions
For each credit card transaction, a committee must retain a monthly billing statement or customer receipt and the canceled check used to pay the account. 102.9(b)(2)(ii).
Credit Union Checks or Share Drafts
A committee may use carbon copies of share drafts or checks drawn on a credit union account provided it also retains the monthly account statement (showing that the draft or check was paid by the credit union). 102.9(b)(2)(iii).
Party committees and their treasurers must make best efforts to obtain, maintain and report the information required by law with respect to itemized receipts and disbursements. 102.9(d). When reporting information is incomplete, the committee and the treasurer will be in compliance with the law if they can demonstrate that they used “best efforts” in trying to obtain and report the needed information. 104.7(a). The criteria for making “best efforts” vary, depending on the type of transaction.
If an individual who has contributed more than $200 during the calendar year fails to provide the required recordkeeping information (i.e., name, address, occupation and employer), the committee must be able to show that it made “best efforts” to obtain and report that information. To demonstrate “best efforts,” the committee must be able to show that it requested the information—first, in the solicitation materials that prompted the contribution and, second, in a follow-up request. Furthermore, if requested information is not received until after the contribution has been reported, the committee must report the information using one of the procedures described under “File Amendments If Necessary,” below.
To satisfy the “best efforts” standard, solicitation materials must include an accurate and clear statement of the law’s requirements for the collection and reporting of contributor information. The following examples are acceptable wording that may be included in the solicitations (other statements of similar meaning may also be used):
• Federal law requires us to use our best efforts to collect and report the name, mailing address, occupation and name of employer of individuals whose contributions exceed $200 in a calendar year.
• To comply with federal law, we must use best efforts to obtain, maintain, and submit the name, mailing address, occupation and name of employer of individuals whose contributions exceed $200 per calendar year.
The request and the statement must appear in a clear and conspicuous manner on both the committee’s solicitations and response materials. The request and statement will not be considered to be “clear and conspicuous” if:
• The request and statement are printed in smaller type than the solicitation and response materials;
• The printing is difficult to read; or
• The request and statement are placed where they may be easily overlooked. 104.7(b)(1).
Follow-Up Request Within 30 Days
If the contributor does not provide sufficient reporting information when making a contribution, the committee must make at least one request for the information after the contribution is received. This follow-up request must be made for any solicited or unsolicited contribution that exceeds the $200 threshold and lacks the necessary information (see “Contributions Aggregating Over $200”).
The request must be made within 30 days of receipt of the contribution; it may not include an additional solicitation or material on any other subject, but it may thank the contributor. The follow-up request may be made orally or in writing, but a written request must be accompanied by a pre-addressed postcard or envelope for the response. Requests made by telephone must be documented in a memorandum. A political committee may also use e-mail to request missing contributor information. AOs 1999-17 and 1995-9. Committees must retain records of follow-up requests. 102.9(d) and 104.7(b)(2).
Use of Information from Prior Records
If the contributor does not respond to the follow-up request, but the committee possesses the information in its contributor records, fundraising records or prior reports filed during the same two-year election cycle, then the committee must use that information when disclosing the contribution. 104.7(b)(3).
File Amendments If Necessary
If requested information about a contribution is received after the contribution has been disclosed on a report, the committee must either:
• File amendments to the original reports; or
• File a memo Schedule A with its next regularly scheduled report, listing all contributions for which new contributor information has been received.
In either case, the entries must cross-reference to the prior reports to which they relate. However, the committee is only required to submit the information for contributions received during the current two-year election cycle. 104.7(b)(4). See “Filing Amendments” on page 42 for instructions on filing amendments.
Documenting a Contribution’s Legality
In order to determine whether a contribution of questionable legality was made by a permissible source and was not excessive, the treasurer must make at least one written or oral request for evidence of the contribution’s legality. 103.3(b)(1). See also “Handling Illegal Contributions.”
If a treasurer fails to receive a receipt, invoice or canceled check (required for disbursements exceeding $200), he or she must make at least one written effort per transaction to obtain a duplicate copy of the needed documentation. 102.9(d).