Any person who receives contributions for a party committee must forward the contributions, together with certain information about the contributors, to the committee treasurer within the following time periods:
- Contributions of $50 or less—within 30 days after receiving the funds;
- Contributions of more than $50—within 10 days after receiving the funds.
No commingling with personal funds
Contributions and other committee receipts must not be deposited in a personal account or otherwise commingled with personal funds.
With respect to receipts, the Federal Election Campaign Act (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.
For each receipt, a treasurer must record the following information:
- Amount received;
- Date of receipt; and
- Name and address of source.
Contributions aggregating over $200
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.
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.
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. These amounts are reported under the category “unitemized contributions from individuals.”
Small contributions collected through tax checkoff
When a committee receives small contribution in the form of state tax checkoff funds, records on individual contributors are not required. The contributions are reported as “unitemized contributions from individuals.” However, the committee must keep a record of the state government source, the date of receipt and the amount received.
Contributions through online banking services
When a committee receives a contribution from a contributor who used an online banking service to issue a physical check bearing the signature of an authorized bank official, the treasurer is not required to send a follow-up letter to the contributor in order to obtain a written signature if all of the necessary contributor information is included on the check. However, where the check does not include all of the necessary contributor information and the treasurer does not have accurate and up-to-date contributor information on file for the individual on whose account the check is drawn, the treasurer must use “best efforts” to obtain such information.
Contributions by text message
Recipient committees are solely responsible for ensuring that contributions sent by text messages are lawful under the Act and Commission regulations. Committees should work with the text messaging application provider to collect the name, address, occupation and employer of individuals making contributions that aggregate over $200 in a calendar year. Committees must return or refund any contribution that comes from a prohibited source.
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.
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.
Joint fundraising receipts
With regard to gross proceeds, the fundraising representative must collect the following contributor information and later forward it to the participating political committees:
- For contributions exceeding $50: the amount, date of receipt and the contributor’s name and address.
- For contributions exceeding $200: the amount, date of receipt and the contributor’s name, address, occupation and employer.
The date of receipt is the date the fundraising representative receives the contribution.
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. 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.
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.
Contributions sent by text message
The date of receipt for contributions sent by text message is the date the contributor “opts-in,” or confirms that he or she intends to make the contribution and certifies his or her eligibility.
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.
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.
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. 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. 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 (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 in the section “File amendments if necessary.”
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.
Follow-up request within 30 days
If the contributor does not provide sufficient reporting information when making a contribution, in order to satisfy “best efforts” standards, 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 contributions that aggregate in excess of $200 per calendar year and lacks the necessary information.
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 email to request missing contributor information. Committees must retain records of follow-up requests.
The follow-up request must, like the solicitation, include a clear and conspicuous statement of the Act’s requirement for the collection and reporting of contributor information, such as stated in the examples.
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.
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.
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 may deposit the contribution, within a 10-day window for depositing contributions, and make at least one written or oral request for evidence of the contribution’s legality. If the contribution cannot be determined to be legal, the treasurer must refund the contribution within thirty days of receipt.