The Commission strongly recommends that SSFs, when contributing to candidates, designate their contributions in writing for a particular election (for example, primary or general). Designated contributions ensure that the contributor’s intent is conveyed to a candidate’s campaign. Written designations also promote consistency in reporting and thereby avoid the possible appearance of excessive contributions on reports.
How to designate
SSFs designate their contributions made by indicating in writing the specific election to which they intend a contribution to apply. The designation may be made either on the contribution check (or other negotiable instrument) or in a signed statement accompanying the contribution. A designation also occurs when the contributing SSF signs a form supplied by the campaign. Only the contributing SSF—not the recipient candidate committee—may designate a contribution for a particular election.
Effect of designating vs. not designating
A designated contribution counts against the SSF's contribution limit for the election that is named. An undesignated contribution automatically counts against the SSF's limit for the candidate’s next election. For example, an undesignated contribution made after the candidate has won the primary but before the general election applies toward the contribution limit for the general election.
Therefore, if an SSF wishes to make a contribution for any election other than the next one, the contribution must be designated in writing.
When designation is required
A written designation is required when an SSF wants a contribution to apply toward a future election other than the next one. For example, an SSF may make a contribution to a candidate’s general election campaign before the primary election has taken place, but the SSF’s check (or an accompanying statement) must specifically indicate that it is for the general in order to count toward the general election limit.
Past elections (debt retirement)
When making a contribution to retire a candidate’s debts from a past election campaign, an SSF must designate the contribution for the appropriate election. The candidate committee may accept the contribution only if the campaign has net debts outstanding with respect to the designated election on the day it receives the contribution. The SSF must also be certain that the contribution, when aggregated with other contributions from the SSF for that same election, does not exceed the applicable per-election limit.
Date contribution is made vs. date of receipt
The date a contribution is made and the date the contribution is received are significant for purposes of the contribution limits and for reporting. It is important to understand the distinction.
Date contribution is received
The date of receipt is the date the recipient committee (or a person acting on the committee’s behalf) actually receives the contribution. This is the date used by the recipient committee for reporting purposes.
Date contribution is made
The date a contribution is made is the date the contributor relinquishes control over it. For example:
- A hand-delivered contribution is considered made on the date it is delivered by the contributor to the committee.
- A mailed contribution is made on the date of the postmark.
- An in-kind contribution is made on the date that the goods or services are provided by the contributor.
- A contribution made via the Internet is considered made on the date the contributor electronically authorizes the transaction.
- An earmarked contribution is considered made on the date the contributor forwards it to the conduit or intermediary. (The conduit must inform the campaign of the date the contribution was made when it forwards the contribution.)
Effect of date made for contributions made by SSF
A candidate may accept a designated contribution if it is made before the designated election, regardless of whether the candidate has outstanding debts from that election. However, a designated contribution is subject to the net debts outstanding rule if it is made after the election for which it is designated.
An SSF may make an undesignated contribution on or before the day of the election regardless of whether the candidate has debts, even if the candidate does not receive the check until after the election has passed as explained in "Date contribution is made." An undesignated contribution made after the election has passed, however, must be applied to the next election.