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Federal Election Commission

Background For Reporters


This page provides responses to frequently asked questions (FAQ) by reporters. The drop-down feature below allows you to review questions by category.  If you still have a question after reviewing the FAQs, please feel free to email the FEC's Press Office at press@fec.gov.

  • AGENCY QUESTIONS
    • What are the terms of FEC Commissioners and who is currently serving?
        • The six Commissioners, no more than three of whom may represent the same political party, are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. They serve six-year, alternating terms, which expire in odd-numbered years. Commissioners serving expired terms may choose to remain until they are replaced.

          • Commissioner Caroline C. Hunter was nominated by President Bush on May 6, 2008, for a term expiring on April 30, 2013. She replaced Commissioner Michael E. Toner.
          • Commissioner Donald F. McGahn II was nominated by President Bush on May 6, 2008, for a term expiring on April 30, 2009. He replaced Commissioner David M. Mason.
          • Commissioner Matthew S. Petersen was nominated by President Bush on June 12, 2008, for a term expiring on April 30, 2011. He replaced Commissioner Hans A. von Spakovsky.
          • Commissioner Steven T. Walther was nominated by President Bush on December 16, 2005, for a term expiring on April 30, 2009. He served as a recess appointee on the Commission from January 2006 through December 2007. He replaced Commissioner Scott E. Thomas.
          • Commissioner Ellen L. Weintraub's term began December 9, 2002, and ended on April 30, 2007.

          Each Commissioner has his or her own web page where biographies and statements are available.

          The Chair and Vice Chair for calendar year 2013 are Ellen L. Weintraub and Donald F. McGahn II.

          The list of former FEC Commissioners is here.

    • Where can I find information on the agency's performance plans and budget?

        The Commission's Strategic Plan, budget documents and the Commission's Performance and Accountability Reports from Fiscal Year 2004 to the present are here.

  • CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORTING QUESTIONS
    • When is the next reporting deadline?

        Committees filing with the Commission generally submit reports on a quarterly (or semi-annual in a non-election year) or monthly schedule. Quarterly reports cover the calendar-year quarters and are due on April 15, July 15, October 15 and January 31. Monthly reports cover the calendar months and are due on the 20th day of the following month. Election-sensitive reports and notices are also required to be filed in connection with a federal election. Specific deadlines can be obtained by visiting our Compliance MapReporting Dates web page or the FEC Calendar.

    • When are reports available on the FEC's website after a filing deadline?

        Electronically filed reports are available on the FEC website almost immediately after the committee uploads its report to the agency's server.  Reports filed on paper are posted on the FEC's website within 48 hours of receipt.

        Committees that raise or spend more than $50,000 in a calendar year or have reason to expect exceeding that limit must file electronically.  This requirement does not apply to Senate candidates, who must file their official reports on paper with the Secretary of Senate, or other committees that file with that office.

    • When are Senate candidate reports available to the public?

        Upon receipt of Senate candidate reports, the Secretary of Senate's office transmits copies to the Commission, which posts images of the reports on the FEC website within 48 hours. It can, therefore, take more than a week after a filing deadline for a Senate candidate's report or Senate party committee report to appear on the Commission's website.

        The Secretary of Senate's office can be reached at (202) 224-0322. Senate candidates may voluntarily file an unofficial copy of their reports electronically. Those reports are here.

    • Where can I find reports filed by committees?

        The Candidate and Committee Viewer is a single point of entry for campaign finance information about any entity that files periodic, regular reports with the Federal Election Commission. All data presentations are sortable and downloadable and comprise two-year summaries, report summaries and report images and downloads.

    • When will summary-level data and itemized transactions be added to the Candidate and Committee Viewer?

        Electronically-filed reports can be viewed via the “Filings” tab as soon as committees upload their reports to the Commission’s server.  The “Two-Year Summary” and “Report Summary” sections of the Viewer will be updated with summary-level data the morning after the committee submits its report to the agency. While the summary-level data will be updated to include the most recent report filing, the associated, itemized transactions may take up to several weeks to be incorporated into the database.

        Reports filed on paper (including Senate candidates and Senate party committees) will be added within 48 hours of receipt and viewable as PDF documents or HTML.  Summary-level data will be updated in the Viewer within the same 48-hour receipt window.  Itemized transactions may take up to several weeks to be entered into the database.

    • How can I determine the filing frequency of a committee? How does a committee change its filing frequency?

        The filing frequency of a filer varies based on committee type. In addition to quarterly (or semi-annual in a non-election year) and monthly filings, committees participating in elections are required to file pre- and post-election reports.

        House and Senate Campaign Committees
        Filing Frequency: Quarterly Only

        Presidential Campaign Committees
        Filing Frequency:
        Monthly for committees anticipating activity of at least $100,000
        OR
        Quarterly for committees with activity less than $100,000

        National Party Committees
        Filing Frequency: Monthly only

        State, District and Local Party Committees 
        Filing Frequency: Quarterly or Monthly 

        Political Action Committees (Separate Segregated Funds/Nonconnected)
        Filing Frequency: Quarterly or Monthly 

        Changing Filing Frequency
        Some committees may choose to change their reporting schedule (for example, from quarterly to monthly). Those that wish to do so must notify the Commission in writing. Committees may change their filing frequency no more than once per calendar year.

  • COMMISSION ACTION QUESTIONS
    • How frequently does the Commission meet?

        The agency's Commissioners hold open meetings, public hearings and executive sessions. 2 USC 437c(d) requires that the Commission meet at least once each month and also at the call of any member. Upcoming meetings and hearings are on the Commission's meeting calendar. All meetings and hearings are held at the FEC, located at 999 E Street, Northwest, Washington, D.C.

        Open meetings are public meetings in which the Commissioners adopt new regulations, issue advisory opinions, approve audit reports concerning political committees, and take other actions to administer the campaign finance law. Open meetings typically are held twice a month, at 10:00 a.m. on Thursdays.  Open Meeting agendas and related documents are here.

        Public Hearings are periodic opportunities to hear public testimony concerning proposed regulations and other matters before the Commission. Upcoming hearings and those held within the last several years are listed here in reverse chronological order, with links to relevant documents.

        Executive sessions, which are not open to the public, concern compliance matters and internal personnel rules, procedures or matters affecting the agency or a particular employee. Executive sessions are typically held twice per month on Tuesdays. Sunshine Act notices announcing the Commission's executive sessions are here.

    • Are meetings and hearings open to the media?

        Yes. Members of the media can attend an open meeting or hearing.  All meetings and hearings are held at the agency's office at 999 E Street, Northwest, Washington, D.C. Please bring a photo ID and be prepared to go through a security check.  You will then be escorted to the Commission's hearing room on the ninth floor. Advance notification of your attendance for these meetings is not required; however, if you plan to film the meeting or bring a camera crew, please contact the FEC's press office at (202) 694-1220 or email press@fec.gov. A hearing room seating chart is here.

    • Is there live streaming of open meetings and hearings?

        Yes, there is audio streaming. On the morning of the open meeting or hearing, the agency provides a scrolling link to the audio feed at the bottom of its homepage, fec.gov.

    • Are audio files of prior meetings available to the public?

        Yes. Audio files containing discussions held at open meetings and hearings are here.  New audio files are added no later than 24 hours after the close of an open meeting or hearing.

    • How many votes does it take for the Commission to take action on a particular matter?

        The affirmative vote of 4 members of the Commission is required for the Commission to take any action.

    • What is an Advisory Opinion?

        Advisory Opinions are official Commission responses to questions regarding the application of federal campaign finance law to specific factual situations. The Commission's Advisory Opinion brochure provides a complete description of the process.

    • Where can I find Advisory Opinions issued by the Commission as well as requests pending before the agency?

        Advisory Opinions issued by the Commission, as well as pending Advisory Opinion Requests, are here.

    • Where can I find background information on litigation involving the FEC?

        All FEC court cases are listed alphabetically by non-FEC litigant here. Each case is linked to a summary and, in some instances, court opinions and additional documents pertaining to the case are available.

        Ongoing FEC litigation cases can be found here. Each case listed has a dedicated page including a case summary, as well as links to court opinions and related documents.

  • ENFORCEMENT QUESTIONS
    • What type of jurisdiction does the Commission have over violations of federal campaign finance law?

        The FEC has exclusive jurisdiction over the civil enforcement of federal campaign finance law. The Commission does not have authority over criminal enforcement.

    • How does the Commission respond to violations?

        In exercising its regulatory and enforcement authority, the Commission uses a variety of methods to uncover possible election law violations.  Each of the following may lead to an FEC enforcement case or Matter Under Review (MUR). By law, these matters must remain confidential until they are closed. In some cases, respondents may be given the option to participate in the Commission's Alternative Dispute Resolution program, which seeks to resolve matters more swiftly through negotiation. Violations involving late submission of FEC reports or failure to file reports are subject to administrative fines, based on a schedule of penalties.  Below are links to additional information on the FEC's enforcement process and to closed enforcement files.

        1. Review of Campaign Finance Reports
        The Reports Analysis Division (RAD) currently employs 38 campaign finance analysts, who review approximately 50,000 financial reports per year. Each analyst is assigned 200-400 committees and is available to assist committee representatives over the phone or via email. The division helps committees comply with reporting requirements and conducts detailed examinations of campaign finance reports filed by political committees. When an analyst identifies an error, omission, need for additional clarification or possible prohibited activity, a Request for Additional Information (RFAI) is sent to the committee/filer. The RFAI affords the committee/filer an opportunity to correct or clarify the public record, if necessary. Committees have 35 days to amend their reports or file a response addressing the issues cited in the RFAI. Committees' failure to respond or respond adequately may lead to additional enforcement action by the Commission. Detailed information about RAD and the review process is here.

        2. Administrative Fine Program (for reports not timely filed)
        RAD also implements the Administrative Fine program, which assesses fines for violations involving:

        • failure to file reports on time;
        • failure to file reports at all; and
        • failure to file 48-hour notices.

        The Administrative Fine program is based on amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as revised, (the Act) that permit the FEC to impose fines, calculated using published schedules, for violations of reporting requirements that relate to the reporting periods that end on or before December 31, 2013 (after which date the program requires congressional reauthorization). Committee treasurers may be liable for fines if reports are not filed or not filed on time.  Detailed information about the Administrative Fine Program is here.

        Administrative Fine Calculator: The calculator used for estimating the administrative fine for late or unfiled reports is here.

        Closed Administrative Fine cases: A list of all closed administrative fine cases is here.

        3. Audit Process
        The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as revised, (the Act) permits the Commission to conduct an audit of any political committee. The Commission generally conducts such audits when a committee appears not to have met the threshold requirements for substantial compliance. [2 U.S.C. §438(b)] The audit determines whether the committee complied with the limitations, prohibitions and disclosure requirements of the Act.  In addition, the Commission is required by law to audit presidential campaigns and convention committees that accept public funds. Audits may lead to additional enforcement action by the Commission.

        Final audit reports are here:

        Detailed information about the audit process is here.

        4. Complaints
        Potential violations may be brought to the Commission's attention through the complaint process. This process enables anyone to file a sworn complaint alleging violations and explaining the basis for the allegations.  Other government agencies may refer possible violations and any entity that believes it has committed a violation may file a self-reported complaint (called "sua sponte" submissions) to the Commission. The stages of the complaint process are outlined here.

    • What is a Matter Under Review (MUR)?

        A Matter Under Review, or MUR, is a standard enforcement case. By law, FEC must attempt to resolve MURs through a confidential investigative process that culminates in a conciliation agreement with the respondent(s). Should that process fail, both the Commission and the respondent(s) have the option to pursue the matter in court.  Additional information about the MUR process is here.

    • How many votes are necessary at each stage of the MUR process for the Commission to proceed?

        A vote of at least four Commissioners is needed at every stage, including whether to (1) find reason to believe and initiate an investigation, (2) find probable cause that a violation has occurred or is about to occur, (3) settle a matter, or (4) authorize filing a lawsuit.  If there are not four votes at any stage, the Commission will not proceed to the next step of the process

    • How long does it take for the Commission to resolve a complaint?

        The Commission does not have a statutory deadline for completing enforcement matters.  Each complaint is reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and therefore, the length of every case will vary.  To provide some context, page 19 of the Commission’s Performance and Accountability Report  states, “In FY 2012, the Commission closed 77 enforcement cases in an average of 14.2 months, which included $603,200 in negotiated civil penalties.“

        It should be noted that 28 U.S.C. § 2462 limits the Commission’s ability to seek civil penalties in federal district court to within a five-year statute of limitations period (measured from the time of the violation).

    • What are possible outcomes of a complaint filed with the Commission?

        The Commission reviews each complaint on a case-by-case basis. If the Commission finds that a violation occurred, possible outcomes can range from a letter reiterating compliance obligations to a conciliation agreement, which may include a monetary civil penalty.

    • What is the Alternative Dispute Resolution program?

        The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Program was implemented in 2002 (after a pilot program begun in 2000) to facilitate settlements outside of the traditional enforcement or litigation processes. The ADR Program's primary objective is quicker resolution of enforcement matters that require fewer resources. A case is closed when the Commission votes on the recommendation made by the Commission's ADR Office as to what final action should be taken. During FY 2012, the Commission completed 41 ADR cases, which included $140,126 in negotiated civil penalties. The Commission's performance measure for ADR is to close 75 percent of cases within 155 days of a case being assigned.

    • When and where are MUR and ADR case documents made public?

        Redacted files associated with closed enforcement matters are published on the FEC website within 30 days after the parties involved have been notified that the matter has been closed. MUR and ADR documents are in the Enforcement Query System (EQS), found here.

    • How can I check the status of a complaint?

        To protect the interests of those involved in a complaint, the law requires that any Commission action on a MUR be kept strictly confidential until the case is resolved. 
        2 U.S.C. § 437g(a)(12). These provisions do not, however, prevent a complainant or respondent from disclosing the substance of the complaint itself, or the response to that complaint, or from engaging in conduct that leads to the publication of information contained in the complaint.

        The Commission's Press Office can provide no information about pending complaints, other than confirming that the complaint has been received. In order to get such confirmation, reporters must supply the names of both respondents and complainants.

  • FEDERAL CAMPAIGN FINANCE RULES QUESTIONS
    • GENERAL QUESTIONS
      • What are the current contribution limits?

          The 2013-2014 contribution limits are here

      • What contribution sources are prohibited?

          The Federal Election Campaign Act prohibits contributions from certain sources made in connection with or for the purpose of influencing federal elections. The prohibitions apply to contributions received and made by political committees. Click here to read about the prohibited sources of contributions.

      • What is an in-kind contribution? How are these reported on a campaign disclosure report?

          An in-kind contribution is a contribution of goods, services or property offered free or at less than the usual and normal charge. The term also includes things of value that can be sold or that appreciate in value, and payments made on behalf of, but not directly to, candidates and political committees (except for independent expenditures or non-coordinated communications).

          The value of an in-kind contribution (the usual and normal charge or fair market value) counts against the contribution limit and must be reported by the recipient committee. When determining whether to itemize an in-kind contribution, a committee should treat it the same as a monetary contribution. The only difference is that the amount of an in-kind contribution must also be included in the committee’s total operating expenditures in order to avoid inflating cash on hand. An in-kind contribution must be itemized as an operating expenditure on Schedule B of the committee’s FEC report only if it has to be itemized as a contribution on Schedule A of the same report.  When looking for in-kind contributions on a report, you will see a memo field with the letter “X” and the word “In-Kind” in the Purpose of Disbursement field of Schedule B.

      • What is the difference between an earmarked contribution and a bundled contribution?

          An earmarked contribution is a contribution that the contributor directs (either orally or in writing) to a clearly identified candidate or authorized committee through an intermediary or conduit. Earmarking may take the form of a designation, instruction or encumbrance, and it may be direct or indirect, express or implied.

          A bundled contribution under the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 means a contribution (subject to the applicable threshold) that is: “(i) forwarded from the contributor or contributors to the recipient by a lobbyist / registrant; or (ii) received by the committee from a contributor or contributors, but credited by the committee or candidate involved (or, in the case of a leadership PAC, by the candidate associated with the PAC) to the person through records, designations, or other means of recognizing that a certain amount of money has been raised by the person.”

      • What is the role of a committee treasurer and who becomes responsible if that office becomes vacant?

          Under federal campaign finance law, a political committee must have a treasurer before it conducts financial transactions.  The treasurer is responsible for:

          • filing the committee's registration form;
          • depositing receipts;
          • authorizing expenditures;
          • monitoring contributions;
          • keeping records;
          • signing all reports and statements; and
          • filing all reports and statements on time.

          If the treasurer is unable to exercise his or her duties (for example, is not available to sign a report or upload an electronic filing), only an assistant treasurer who has been officially designated on the Statement of Organization may assume the treasurer's duties. This is also true if the current treasurer resigns. Under the law, a political committee may not accept contributions or make expenditures without a treasurer. An officially named assistant treasurer, however, may function as the treasurer until a new treasurer is designated on an amended Statement of Organization. To avoid delays in reporting and other compliance problems that could develop in the treasurer's absence, the Commission recommends that committees designate an assistant treasurer on their Statements of Organization.

          The assistant treasurer may be named when the treasurer first files the Statement of Organization or at a later time, in which case the treasurer would file an amended Statement of Organization.

          For additional information about the role of a committee treasurer, click here.

      • What is joint fundraising? What are the rules for raising and transferring money from the joint fundraising committee to political committees?

          Joint fundraising is fundraising a political committee conducts together with one or more other political committees or unregistered organizations. Joint fundraising rules apply to 1party committees, political action committees and federal and nonfederal candidate committees. Joint fundraising participants must either establish a new political committee (using a Statement of Organization, FEC Form 1) or select a participating political committee to act as the joint fundraising representative, which reports all joint fundraising proceeds in the reporting period in which they are received.

          Before conducting a joint fundraising event, all participants must enter into a written agreement that identifies the joint fundraising representative and states the allocation formula—the amount or percentage that the participants agree to use for allocating proceeds and expenses. For additional information about joint fundraising and allocation of proceeds and expenses, click here.

    • CANDIDATE QUESTIONS

        The questions below pertain to candidates for federal office (President, U.S. Senate and House of Representatives).

      • When does an individual have to register as a candidate with the Commission?

          An individual becomes a candidate for federal office (and thus triggers registration and reporting obligations under the Act) when his or her campaign exceeds $5,000 in either contributions or expenditures. Within 15 days after an individual becomes a candidate, he or she must designate a principal campaign committee as the primary committee to receive contributions and make expenditures on the candidate's behalf. This designation must be made in writing by filing a Statement of Candidacy (FEC Form 2) or filing a letter with the same information. Click here for additional information about candidate registration.

      • What is "testing the waters?" Is an individual who is in the exploratory stage required to file reports with the Commission?

          Before deciding to run for federal office, an individual may first "test the waters," or explore the feasibility of becoming a candidate. For example, the individual may want to travel around the state to gauge support for a possible candidacy.

          An individual who spends money only to test the waters (but not to campaign for office) does not have to register as a candidate. Nevertheless, funds received and spent to test the waters are subject to the Federal Election Campaign Act's limits and prohibitions. Furthermore, financial records of testing-the-waters activities should be retained because, if the individual later becomes a candidate, the funds received and spent to test the waters will be considered contributions and expenditures and must be reported in the candidate committee's first report. Click here for additional information about testing the waters.

      • Can a candidate receive a salary from his or her campaign committee?

          The candidate may receive a salary from his or her campaign committee only under the following conditions:

          • The salary must be paid by the principal campaign committee.
          • The salary must not exceed the lesser of the minimum annual salary for the federal office sought or what the candidate received as earned income in the previous year.
          • Individuals who elect to receive a salary from their campaign committees must provide income tax records and additional proof of earnings from relevant years upon request from the Commission.
          • Payments of salary from the committee must be made on a pro-rata basis (i.e., a candidate may not receive a whole year's salary if he or she is not a candidate for an entire 12-month period).
          • Incumbent federal officeholders may not receive a salary payment from campaign funds.
          • The first payment of salary shall be made no sooner than the filing deadline for access to the primary election ballot in the state in which the candidate is running for office.
          • Salary payments may continue until the date when the candidate is no longer considered a candidate for office or until the date of the general election or general election runoff. For special elections, payments may continue from the date that the special election is set until the date of the special election.
      • What are the permissible and prohibited uses of a candidate's campaign funds?

          Pages 51 through 57 of the Commission's Campaign Guide for Congressional Candidates and Committees outline permissible, personal and prohibited uses of campaign funds by a candidate and his or her committee.

      • What are the rules regarding transfers of campaign funds between the committees of a candidate who is seeking a different or more than one elected office?

          Pages 59 through 61 of the Commission's Campaign Guide for Congressional Candidates and Committees outline the rules describing the different types of transfers that candidate committees may receive and make. Note, however, that a committee of a federal candidate may not accept any transfers of funds or assets from a committee established by the same candidate for a nonfederal election.

      • What can a candidate who is no longer running for office do with funds left in his or her campaign committee's account?

          Campaign funds of candidates who are no longer seeking federal office are subject to the same expenditure rules as funds of a candidate who is still seeking federal office. Pages 51 through 57 of the Commission's Campaign Guide for Congressional Candidates and Committees outline permissible, personal and prohibited uses of campaign funds by a candidate and his or her committee. You may also wish to read about the rules pertaining to winding down a campaign.

      • Can a candidate's committee continue to collect money to pay off outstanding debts and loans after the candidate is no longer seeking office?

          If a committee has "net debts outstanding" after an election is over, a campaign may accept contributions after the election to retire the debts provided that:

          • the contribution is designated for that election (since an undesignated contribution made after an election counts toward the limit for the candidate's next election, unless the campaign requests its redesignation);
          • the contribution does not exceed the contributor's limit for the designated election; and
          • the campaign has "net debts outstanding" for the designated election on the day it receives the contribution.

          For additional information about debt retirement and "net debts outstanding," click here.

      • Can a candidate's committee sell or raffle items for fundraising purposes?

          The entire amount paid to attend a political fundraiser or other political event or to purchase a fundraising item sold by a political committee is a contribution and counts against the individual's contribution limit. For example, if a contributor pays $100 to buy a ticket to a fundraising dinner, the entire $100 is considered a contribution to the committee, even though the meal may have cost the committee $30. Similarly if a contributor spends $20 to buy a campaign T-shirt that cost the campaign $5, the contributor has made a $20 contribution.

    • PRESIDENTIAL PUBLIC FUNDING AND OTHER PRESIDENTIAL QUESTIONS
      • What is public funding?

          Public funding of Presidential elections means that qualified presidential candidates receive federal government funds to pay for the valid expenses of their political campaigns in both the primary and general elections. National political parties also receive federal money for their national nominating conventions.

          To qualify for public funding, presidential candidates and party convention committees must first meet various eligibility requirements, such as agreeing to limit campaign spending to a specified amount. Once the Federal Election Commission determines that eligibility requirements have been met, it certifies the amount of public funds to which the candidate or convention committee is entitled. The U.S. Treasury then makes the payments from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. Detailed information about the Presidential Election Campaign Fund can be found here.

      • Must all presidential candidates accept public funds?

          No. A candidate may choose not to participate in the public funding program. If he or she accepts public funds for a presidential campaign, the candidate is bound by expenditure limits. Presidential candidates who choose not to participate in the public funding program may raise private contributions subject to the limits and source prohibitions of federal campaign finance law; these candidates are not bound by expenditure limits.

      • How is the presidential public financing program funded?

          This Presidential Election Campaign Fund consists of dollars volunteered by taxpayers, who indicate on their federal income tax returns that they want $3 of tax payer money to go to the Fund. The checkoff neither increases the amount of taxes owed nor decreases any refund due for the tax year in which the checkoff is made. For additional information about the $3 Tax Checkoff, click here.

      • What would happen if checkoff dollars ran short?

          The law requires that priority be given first to party nominating conventions, then to general election nominees and last to primary election candidates. If there were insufficient funds for the primary election candidates, the Secretary of the Treasury would provide only partial matching funds.

      • What happens to unused Checkoff dollars?

          Any unused Checkoff dollars remain in the Presidential Fund account and carry over to the next presidential election.

      • Where can I find data on public funding payments to presidential candidates and national party committees?

          This chart shows the total amounts paid in public funds from 1976 through April 2012. This chart tracks monthly deposits into the Fund reported by the Treasury Department, payments from the Presidential Fund certified by the FEC, and participation rates for taxpayers as reported by the IRS. This spreadsheet provides the names of presidential candidates and the total amount of public funds received in presidential election cycles from 1976 to the present.

      • How does the FEC monitor the use of campaign funds by publicly-funded candidates and nominating convention committees?

          At the end of every presidential election, the FEC audits the campaigns and committees that receive public funds. Any unused funds or funds that were not spent for campaign purposes must be returned to the U.S. Treasury.

      • When do presidential and vice-presidential candidates have to submit personal financial disclosures to the FEC? How can I receive a copy?

          Candidates for nomination or election to the office of President or Vice President are required to file an annual Office of Government Ethics (OGE) Public Financial Disclosure Report with the FEC within 30 days after becoming a candidate for nomination or election, or by May 15 of that calendar year, whichever is later, but at least 30 days before the election.

          After a candidate has entered the presidential election race and has filed his or her initial public financial disclosure report, the candidate must file an annual OGE Public Financial Disclosure Report with the FEC on or before May 15th each successive year in which the individual continues to be a candidate.

          A presidential or vice-presidential candidate may request an extension of time up to 45 days for "good cause shown."  The request must be in writing, and must explain the "good cause."  5 C.F.R. 2634.201(d) & (f). A candidate may request a second 45-day extension. 5 C.F.R. 2634.201(f).

          Members of the public may request a copy of these disclosures reports. OGE requires that all members of the public who request copies of these disclosure reports complete and submit by fax or email a Request Form to the FEC. You will then receive a copy of the requested disclosure report through the delivery method that you indicated on your form.

      • What is the difference between a convention committee and a host committee? When are these committees required to file reports to the FEC?

          The principal purpose of a host committee or, alternatively, of a municipal fund (any fund or account of a government agency, municipality, or municipal corporation, the receipt and use of funds of which is subject to the control of officials of the state or local government), is the encouragement of commerce in the convention city and the projection of a favorable image of the city to convention attendees. A convention committee represents a political party in making arrangements for that party's convention to nominate a candidate for the office of president and vice president.

          Below are the reporting requirements for both host and convention committees.

          • A post-convention report must be filed on the earlier of 60 days following the last day the convention is officially in session or 20 days prior to the presidential general election. The covered period ends 15 days before the filing deadline.
          • Quarterly reports must be filed no later than 15 days following the last day of the covered period, except for the year-end report, which is due January 31. Any quarterly report due within 20 days before or after the convention need not be filed, and in lieu of such quarterly report a post-convention report must be filed.
          • The final report by a host committee must be filed no later than 10 days after activity relating to the presidential nominating convention has ceased.

          Both committee file their reports on FEC Form 4 and are required to include receipts and disbursements.

      • What is an inaugural committee and when is it required to file a report to the FEC?

          An inaugural committee is appointed by the President-elect to be in charge of the presidential inaugural ceremony and activities connected with the ceremony. This committee is required to disclose to the FEC donations received. This report is due to the FEC no later than 11:59 p.m. (Eastern Time) on the 90th day following the date of the presidential inaugural ceremony. The report, filed on FEC Form 13, must include for each donation of money or anything of value aggregating $200 or more the donor's name and mailing address, the amount of each donation, the date of receipt by the inaugural committee and the aggregate total of donations accepted to date from that donor.

    • PARTY QUESTIONS
      • How does a committee qualify as a state or national party committee?

          The Commission determines whether committees meet the criteria for state or national party committee status through the advisory opinion process. For state committee status, the Commission generally has looked to see whether the committee engages in activities that are commensurate with the day-to-day operations of a party at the state level and whether the committee has gained ballot access for its federal candidates.

          For national committee status, the criteria include:

          • nominating qualified candidates for President and various Congressional offices in numerous states;
          • engaging in certain activities--such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives--on an ongoing basis;
          • publicizing the party's supporters and primary issues throughout the nation;
          • holding a national convention;
          • setting up a national office; and
          • establishing state affiliates.
      • What is a party coordinated communication?

          When a party committee pays for a communication that is coordinated with a candidate, the communication is either an in-kind contribution or a coordinated party expenditure. (On the other hand, when a non-party committee pays for a communication that is coordinated with a political party committee, the communication is an in-kind contribution to the party committee.) Click here for additional information about party coordinated communications.

      • What are coordinated party expenditures and what are the current limits?

          A national party committee and its state party committees may make special expenditures in connection with the general election campaigns of federal candidates. These coordinated party expenditures do not count against the contribution limits but are subject to a different set of limits, as linked below. Additionally, any coordinated party expenditures must be made with federally permissible funds only. Each year, the Commission publishes the coordinated party expenditure limits on its website.  Click here to view the 2013 coordinated party expenditure limits. For additional information about coordinated party expenditures, click here.

    • POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE (PAC) QUESTIONS
      • What is a political action committee? What is the difference between a separate segregated fund (SSF) and a nonconnected committee?

          The term "political action committee" (PAC) refers to two distinct types of political committees registered with the FEC: separate segregated funds (SSFs) and nonconnected committees. SSFs are political committees established and administered by corporations, labor unions, membership organizations or trade associations. These committees can solicit contributions only from individuals associated with a connected or sponsoring organization.  By contrast, nonconnected committees--as their name suggests--are not sponsored by or connected to any of the aforementioned entities and are free to solicit contributions from the general public. 

      • What are the registration thresholds for both a nonconnected committee and an SSF?

          Nonconnected Committees
          A nonconnected committee becomes a political committee once it raises or spends more than $1,000 in a calendar year.  The committee thereafter has 10 days to register with the FEC by completing FEC Form 1, the Statement of Organization.

          Separate Segregated Fund
          A corporation or labor union that sponsors an SSF is called the connected organization.  An SSF must register with the FEC within 10 days of the date of its establishment by completing FEC Form 1, the Statement of Organization – regardless of the size of the fund.  The establishment of the SSF may be the date when the board of directors votes to create the SSF, when officers are selected to administer the fund, or when the SSF's initial operating expenditures are paid.

      • What is the difference between an Independent Expenditure-Only Political Committee ("SuperPAC") and a Political Committee with Non-Contribution Accounts ("Hybrid PAC")?

          Independent Expenditure-Only Political Committees or “SuperPACs” are committees that may receive unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, labor unions and other political action committees for the purpose of financing independent expenditures and other independent political activity. For a complete listing of these committees, click here.

          Political Committees with Non-Contribution Accounts or “Hybrid PACs” solicit and accept unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, labor organizations, and other political committees to a segregated bank account for the purpose of financing independent expenditures, other ads that refer to a federal candidate, and generic voter drives in federal elections, while maintaining a separate bank account, subject to all the statutory amount limitations and source prohibitions, that is permitted to make contributions to federal candidates. For a complete listing of these committees, click here.

      • What is a leadership PAC? Can a federal candidate who sponsors the PAC transfer money to his or her campaign committee?

          A leadership PAC is a political committee that is directly or indirectly established, financed, maintained or controlled by a candidate or an individual holding federal office, but is not an authorized committee of the candidate or officeholder and is not affiliated with an authorized committee of a candidate or officeholder.  Members of Congress and other political leaders often establish leadership PACs in order to support candidates for various federal and nonfederal offices.

          Like other multicandidate PACs, a leadership PAC may contribute up to $5,000 per election to a federal candidate committee.

    • COMMUNICATIONS QUESTIONS
      • What is a public communication?

          As defined in FEC regulations, the term "public communication" includes:

          • broadcast, cable or satellite transmission;
          • newspaper;
          • magazine;
          • outdoor advertising facility (e.g., billboard);
          • mass mailing (defined as more than 500 pieces of mail matter of an identical or substantially similar nature within any 30-day period);
          • telephone banks (defined as more than 500 telephone calls of an identical or substantially similar nature within any 30-day period); or
          • any other general public political advertising. (General public political advertising does not include Internet ads, except for communications placed for a fee on another person's or entity's web site.)
          • (11 CFR 100.26, 100.27 and 100.28)

      • What is express advocacy?

          A communication "expressly advocates" if it includes a message that unmistakably urges the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate for federal office.

      • What is a clearly identified candidate?

          A "clearly identified candidate" is one whose name, nickname, photograph or drawing appears, or whose identity is apparent through unambiguous reference, such as "your Congressman," or through an unambiguous reference to his or her status as a candidate, such as "the Democratic presidential nominee" or "Republican candidate for Senate in this state." 

      • What is a coordinated communication?

          When an individual or political committee pays for a communication that is coordinated with a candidate or party committee, the communication is considered an in-kind contribution to that candidate or party committee and is subject to the limits, prohibitions and reporting requirements of federal campaign finance law.

          In general, a payment for a communication is "coordinated" if it is made in cooperation, consultation or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate, a candidate's authorized committee or their agents, or a political party committee or its agents. To be an "agent" of a candidate, candidate's committee or political party committee for the purposes of determining whether a communication is coordinated, a person must have actual authorization, either express or implied, from a specific principal to engage in specific activities, and then engage in those activities on behalf of that specific principal. Such activities would also result in a coordinated communication if carried out directly by the candidate, authorized committee staff or a political party official.

          For detailed information on coordinated communications, click here.

      • What is an Independent Expenditure and what are the relevant reporting requirements?

          An independent expenditure is an expenditure for a communication "expressly advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate that is not made in cooperation, consultation, or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate, a candidate's authorized committee, or their agents, or a political party or its agents."

          The reporting requirements of Independent Expenditures are here.

      • What is an Electioneering Communication and what are the relevant reporting requirements?

          An electioneering communication is any broadcast, cable or satellite communication that fulfills each of the following conditions:

          1. the communication refers to a clearly identified candidate for federal office;

          2. the communication is publicly distributed shortly before an election for the office that candidate is seeking; and

          3. the communication is targeted to the relevant electorate (U.S. House and Senate candidates only).

          For additional information and reporting requirements of electioneering communications, click here.

      • When is a disclaimer required and not required on public communications?

          A "disclaimer" notice is a statement placed on a public communication that identifies the person(s) who paid for the communication and, where applicable, the person(s) who authorized the communication. 

          Political Committees

          Political committees must include a disclaimer on (1) all "public communications", (2) bulk electronic email (defined as electronic mail with more than 500 substantially similar communications) and (3) web sites available to the general public, regardless of whether the communication expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate, or solicits funds in connection with a federal election (i.e., contributions for a federal candidate or federal political committee).

          Individuals and Other Persons

          A disclaimer must appear on any "electioneering communication" and on any public communication by any person that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate or solicits funds in connection with a federal election.

          For detailed information about disclaimers, as well as examples of proper disclaimers on public communications, click here.

      • Does the FEC have any rules regarding the use of the Internet for political activity?

          On March 27, 2006, the Commission approved regulations governing certain types of Internet communications.  The rules took effect May 12, 2006. Internet rules are explained in detail here.

  • OTHER QUESTIONS
    • Where can I find information about voting issues, ballot access, the Electoral College, House and Senate ethics, and political committee tax questions related to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)?

        The Federal Election Campaign Act authorizes the Commission to administer federal campaign finance laws, which regulate all candidates for federal office.  However, the Act does not empower the FEC to regulate matters related to ballot access, voting machines and other voting issues, the Electoral College, and issues relating to House and Senate ethics and the IRS.  As such, the Commission is not the agency that would handle matters related to these issues.

        Voting and Ballot Access: The facilitation of voting and the process of conducting and managing U.S. elections at all levels - from local to federal - are regulated under state law.  Contact individual state election offices to inquire about voting procedures.  Here is a link to a directory of U.S. State election offices.

        Electoral College:  A function of the National Archives is the administration of the Electoral College by the Office of the Federal Register. Information about the Electoral College is on the National Archives website. Questions should be sent to electoral_college@nara.gov.

        House and Senate Ethics: Personal financial disclosures of House and Senate candidates, as well as ethics rules should be addressed by the appropriate offices on Capitol Hill.  The U.S. House Committee of Ethics provides rules on its website and can be reached at (202) 225-7103.  The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics provides information on its website and can be reached at (202) 224-2981.
        Internal Revenue Service: The determination of tax-exempt status of political committees is made by the IRS.  Its political organization website is here.

    • Does the FEC release election results?

        Every two years, the Commission releases a publication entitled Federal Elections, a compilation of the official, certified federal election results obtained from each state's election office and other official sources.  The above link provides the primary, runoff and general election results for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives and, when applicable, U.S. President. New publications are not typically released until the summer following the year of the general election.

    • I am a foreign news reporter, and I would like to observe U.S. elections. How do I receive permission to do this?

        The FEC is not authorized to assist in the selection or accreditation of election observers for any U.S. election. Please consult the U.S. Department of State's website pages linked here and here, which include information on the Washington Foreign Press Center.

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