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Day-to-day operating expenditures

Payments for day-to-day expenses, such as staff salaries, rent, travel, advertising, telephones, office supplies and equipment, fundraising, etc., are permissible operating expenditures. Interest paid on a loan is also considered an operating expenditure.

Certain other expenses are considered to be permissible operating expenditures on a case-by-case basis, including meal, travel, vehicle and legal expenses. For example, if a campaign pays for the candidate’s travel and subsistence in connection with his or her campaign activities, those payments are also considered operating expenditures. Generally, as long as such expenses would not exist irrespective of the candidate’s campaign or duties as a federal officeholder, they are considered permissible.

Using credit cards

In the case of operating expenditures charged on a credit card, a committee must itemize a payment to a credit card company if the payment exceeds the $200 aggregate threshold for itemization. The committee must also itemize, as a memo entry, any specific transaction charged on a credit card if the payment to the actual vendor exceeds the $200 threshold. The memo entry must also include the name and address of the vendor, the purpose of the disbursement and the amount of the disbursement. Finally, any credit card debt must be reported following the procedures explained in "Handling loans, debts and advances."

Repaying loans

The repayment of both the principal and the interest of a loan owed by the committee are permissible expenses. Repayments of the principal are not considered to be a “payment” for the purposes of the definition of expenditure, and thus are itemized separately on the FEC report. Repayments of the interest on a loan are considered operating expenditures for reporting purposes.

Transferring to other authorized committees

Funds may be transferred between authorized committees of the same candidate (for example, from a previous campaign committee to a current campaign committee) without limit as long as the committee making the transfer has no net debts outstanding.

Alternatively, a candidate may redesignate a former campaign committee as the principal campaign committee of his or her current campaign and use the excess funds of the previous campaign in the current campaign.

Refunding contributions

Campaigns may refund any contribution, but must refund (or otherwise disgorge) a contribution that is from a prohibited source or in excess of the contribution limits.

Making in-kind contributions

Any in-kind contribution received by a committee must be reported as an operating expenditure (even though money has not been expended by the committee) in addition to being reported as a contribution received. This reporting adjustment allows the committee to balance its cash on hand.

If a candidate uses his or her personal funds to make expenditures on behalf of the committee without intending to be reimbursed, this constitutes an in-kind contribution from the candidate to the committee. In addition, out-of-pocket spending by candidates, as agents of their authorized committees, requires reporting the original vendor’s information as a disbursement when that vendor exceeds $200 for the election cycle.

Written agreements to make expenditures

A written agreement to make an expenditure, such as a media contract, constitutes an expenditure.

Paying for ballot initiative communications and donations

Payments for ads in which a candidate endorses a ballot initiative on an issue with which he or she is closely associated are expenditures in connection with the campaign.

A campaign may also support or oppose ballot initiatives and make donations to committees established to do so under state election laws. Such donations are considered expenditures under the Federal Election Campaign Act.

Special rules apply to a federal candidate or officeholder’s fundraising for such organizations.