Legislative Recommendations for Immediate Transmission to Congress and the President of the United States

1999

 

1999 Legislative Recommendations for Immediate Transmission to Congress and the President of the United States

 

Table of Contents

Disclosure ...1

Electronic Filing Threshold (revised 1999) ...1

Campaign-Cycle Reporting ...3

Contributions and Expenditures ...4

Application of $25,000 Annual Limit ...4

Disclosure

Electronic Filing Threshold (revised 1999)

Section: 2 U.S.C. 434(a)

Recommendation: The Commission recommends that Congress give the FEC authority to require committees with a certain level of financial activity to file FEC reports electronically.

Explanation: Public Law 104-79, effective December 28, 1995, authorized the electronic filing of disclosure reports with the FEC. As of January 1997, political committees (except for Senate campaigns) may opt to file FEC reports electronically.

The FEC has created the electronic filing program and is providing software to committees in order to assist committees that wish to file reports electronically. To maximize the benefits of electronic filing, Congress should consider requiring committees that meet a certain threshold of financial activity to file reports electronically. The FEC would receive, process and disseminate the data from electronically filed reports more easily and efficiently, resulting in better use of Commission resources. Moreover, information in the FEC's database would be standardized for committees at a certain threshold, thereby enhancing public disclosure of campaign finance information. In addition, committees, once participating in the electronic filing program, should find it easier to complete and file reports.

Legislative Language:

ELECTRONIC FILING THRESHOLD

Section 302(a) of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 434(a)) is amended by striking paragraph (11) and inserting the following:

(A) The Commission shall promulgate a regulation under which a person required to file a designation, statement, or report under this Act—

is required to maintain and file a designation, statement, or report for any calendar year in electronic form accessible by computers if the person has, or has reason to expect to have, aggregate contributions or expenditures in excess of a threshold amount determined by the Commission; and

may maintain and file a designation, statement, or report in electronic form or an alternative form if not required to do so under the regulation promulgated under clause (i).

The Commission shall make a designation, statement, report, or notification that is filed electronically with the Commission accessible to the public on the Internet not later than 24 hours after the designation, statement, report, or notification is received by the Commission.

In promulgating a regulation under this paragraph, the Commission shall provide methods (other than requiring a signature on the document being filed) for verifying designations, statements, and reports covered by the regulation. Any document verified under any of the methods shall be treated for all purposes (including penalties for perjury) in the same manner as a document verified by signature.' .

 

 

Campaign-Cycle Reporting

Section: 2 U.S.C. 434

Recommendation: The Commission recommends that Congress revise the law to require authorized candidate committees to report on a campaign-to-date basis, rather than a calendar year cycle, as is now required.

Explanation: Under the current law, authorized committees must track contributions received in two different ways. First, to comply with the law’s reporting requirements, the committee must track donations on a calendar year basis. Second, to comply with the law’s contribution limits, the committee must track contributors’ donations on a per-election basis. Simplifying the law’s reporting requirement to allow reporting on a campaign-to-date basis would make the law’s recordkeeping requirements less burdensome to committees. (Likewise, the Commission recommends that contribution limits be placed on a campaign-cycle basis as well. See the recommendation entitled "Election Period Limitations.")

This change would also benefit public disclosure of campaign finance activity. Currently, contributions from an individual are itemized only if the individual donates more than $200 in the aggregate during a calendar year. Likewise, disbursements are itemized only if payments to a specific payee aggregate in excess of $200 during a calendar year. Requiring itemization once contributions from an individual or disbursements to a payee aggregate in excess of $200 during the campaign would capture information of interest to the public that is currently not available. Moreover, to determine the actual campaign finance activity of a committee, reporters and researchers must compile the total figures from several year-end reports. In the case of Senate campaigns, which may extend over a six-year period, this change would be particularly helpful.

Legislative Language:

CAMPAIGN CYCLE REPORTING

Paragraphs (2), (3), (4), (6), and (7) of section 304(b) of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 434(b)(2), (3), (4), (6), and (7)), are amended by inserting after "calendar year" each place it appears the following: "(election cycle, in the case of an authorized committee of a candidate for Federal office)".

 

 

Contributions and Expenditures

Application of $25,000 Annual Limit

Section: 2 U.S.C. 441a(a)(3)

Recommendation: The Commission recommends that Congress consider modifying the provision that limits individual contributions to $25,000 per calendar year so that an individual’s contributions count against his or her annual limit for the year in which they are made.

Explanation: Section 441a(a)(3) now provides that a contribution to a candidate made in a nonelection year counts against the individual donor’s limit for the year in which the candidate’s election is held. This provision has led to some confusion among contributors. For example, a contributor wishing to support Candidate Smith in an election year contributes to her in November of the year before the election. The contributor assumes that the contribution counts against his limit for the year in which he contributed. Unaware that the contribution actually counts against the year in which Candidate Smith’s election is held, the contributor makes other contributions during the election year and inadvertently exceeds his $25,000 limit. By requiring contributions to count against the limit of the calendar year in which the donor contributes, confusion would be eliminated and fewer contributors would inadvertently violate the law. The change would offer the added advantage of enabling the Commission to better monitor the annual limit. Through the use of our data base, we could more easily monitor contributions made by one individual regardless of whether they were given to retire the debt of a candidate’s previous campaign, to support an upcoming election (two, four or six years in the future) or to support a PAC or party committee. Such an amendment would not alter the per candidate, per election limits. Nor would it affect the total amount that any individual could contribute in connection with federal elections.

Legislative Language:

APPLICATION OF $25,000 ANNUAL LIMIT

Section 315(a)(3) of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 441a(a)(3)) is amended by striking the second sentence of that paragraph.