With respect to receipts, the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) requires reporting of all receipts, but requires recordkeeping only for contributions. Nevertheless, a candidate committee must keep records for all types of receipts in order to comply with the reporting requirements of the Act and FEC regulations. The committee must maintain the following information for contributions of any amount and should maintain these records for other receipts:
- Amount received;
- Date of receipt; and
- Name and address of source.
Every person who receives contributions for a campaign must forward them to the treasurer of the candidate’s authorized committee within 10 days of receipt. The date of receipt is the date the person acting as a conduit obtains possession of a contribution.
A person receiving contributions for a campaign must also forward the recordkeeping information along with the contributions.
Contributions of $50 or less
In advisory opinions, the Commission has recommended two possible accounting methods that satisfy recordkeeping requirements for contributions of $50 or less:
- Keep the same information required for identifying contributions that exceed $50 (amount, date of receipt and contributor’s name and mailing address); or
- In the case of small contributions collected at a fundraiser (such as gate receipts and cash contributions), keep records of the name of the event, the date and the total amount of contributions received on each day of the event.
Contributions exceeding $50
Records must identify each contribution of more than $50 by:
- Date of receipt; and
- Contributor’s name and mailing address.
Furthermore, political committees must maintain either a full-size photocopy or digital image of each check or written instrument by which a contribution of more than $50 is made.
Contributions aggregating over $200
For each contribution that exceeds $200, either by itself or when added to the contributor’s previous contributions made during the same calendar year, records must identify that contribution by:
- Date of receipt; and
- Contributor’s full name and mailing address, occupation and employer.
If a person has already contributed an aggregate amount of over $200 during a calendar year, each subsequent contribution, regardless of amount, must be identified in the same way.
Please note that contributions to authorized committees are aggregated on a calendar-year basis for recordkeeping purposes, but are aggregated on a per-election basis for purposes of monitoring contribution limits, and on an election-cycle basis for reporting purposes.
Distinguishing between primary and general contributions
If, before the primary election, a campaign receives contributions designated for the general election, it must use an acceptable accounting method to distinguish between primary contributions and general election contributions.
Acceptable accounting methods include:
- Designating separate accounts for each election; or
- Establishing separate books and records for each election.
The committee’s records must demonstrate that, prior to the primary election, recorded cash-on-hand was at all times greater than or equal to the sum of general election contributions received minus the sum of general election disbursements made.
Contributions from political committees
Records must identify each contribution from a political committee, regardless of amount, by:
- Date of receipt, and
- Name and address of the political committee.
Lobbyist bundled contributions
Candidate committees must maintain records of any bundled contributions forwarded by or received and credited to a lobbyist/registrant or lobbyist/registrant PAC that aggregate in excess of the reporting threshold for any covered period for three years after filing.
Another type of bundled contribution covers contributions received by the candidate committee from a contributor, but credited to the lobbyist/registrant or lobbyist/registrant PAC through records, designations or other means of recognizing that a certain amount of money has been raised by the lobbyist/registrant or lobbyist/registrant PAC. In this case, the contribution must be 1) received by the candidate committee and 2) credited to a lobbyist/registrant or lobbyist/registrant PAC to satisfy the definition of bundled contribution.
Crediting recognizes that a certain amount of money has been raised by the lobbyist/registrant or lobbyist/registrant PAC. Examples of crediting include:
- Maintaining records or using any method to retain written evidence pertaining to the committee’s crediting. Records include paper, electronic, digital, audio, and video records, and records in any other format, including informal items such as hand-written notations on a business card.
- Providing designations and other benefits to the lobbyist/registrant or lobbyist/registrant PAC, including giving honorary titles, tracking identifiers, access or invitations to events for people who raised a certain amount of money, mementos such as photographs with the candidate and autographed copies of books authored by the candidate.
Joint fundraiser contributions
With regard to gross proceeds, the joint 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.
Designated, redesignated and reattributed contributions
Also, for any contributions presumptively redesignated or reattributed, the committee must retain any writings from contributors that accompany the contribution and any notices sent from the committee to the contributor.
Records of redesignations obtained electronically may be retained in a database in a manner consistent with the recordkeeping requirements for signed written redesignations under 11 CFR 110.1.
Possibly illegal contributions
When a committee has reason to question the legality of a contribution, it has specific time frames in which to clarify whether the contribution is permissible. While investigating a contribution, the committee must keep a written record noting the basis of concern for each deposited contribution which:
- Requires a written redesignation and/or reattribution from the contributor; or
- Requires confirmation that it is not from a prohibited source.
Joint fundraiser contributions: The joint fundraising representative must also keep a record of the total amount of prohibited contributions received, if any, and of any transfers containing prohibited funds made to participants that may accept them.
Best efforts to document receipts
If an individual who has contributed more than $200 during the election cycle fails to provide the required recordkeeping information (that is, name, mailing address, occupation and employer), the committee must be able to show that it made “best efforts” to obtain, maintain 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, if the information is not obtained, in a follow-up request.
Furthermore, if the 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."
In solicitation materials
To satisfy the "best efforts" standard, the solicitation must include a statement explaining that the campaign is required to use its best efforts to obtain and report certain information from the contributor. This statement is referred to as the "best efforts" notification; two examples are:
"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 an election cycle"
"To comply with Federal law, we must use our best efforts to obtain, maintain and submit the name, mailing address, occupation and name of employer of individuals whose contributions exceed $200 per election cycle."
The request for the information and the best efforts notification must be clear and conspicuous. If the solicitations include response materials, the best efforts notice and the request for the contributor information must be placed on these materials. The notice will not be considered to be "clear and conspicuous" if:
- The notification is printed in smaller type than the solicitation and response materials;
- The printing is difficult to read; or
- The notification is placed where it can be easily overlooked.
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 contribution that exceeds the $200 threshold 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. Oral requests 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.
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 a Schedule A with its next regularly scheduled report, containing memo entries listing all contributions for which new contributor information has been received; or
- File amendments to the original reports.
In either case, the entries must cross-reference 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.
Statement of best efforts procedures
Providing a detailed description of "best efforts" procedures in accordance with the regulations may prevent inquiries for missing contributor information during an election cycle.