Legal missteps in a campaign can become fodder for your opposition – or worse, put you personally at risk for prosecution. For campaigns operating across the nation, it’s critical that you understand the existing rules related to:
– Legal do’s and don’ts for setting up and winding down campaign committees
– Legal do’s and don’ts for reporting campaign contributions and expenditures
Our expert panelists including Darrin Lim (Politicom Law LLP), Lacey Keys (Olson Hagel & Fishburn LLP), Leilani Rudow Beaver, and Elli Abdoli (Nielsen Merksamer) provided advice and insider tips to keep your firm compliant. Read the recap below!
Darrin Lim’s Lessons:
- In CA, if there is $100,000 or more earned in a campaign that is not disclosed, then you will incur hefty fines and complaints.
- You need to know what type of committee you are creating and make sure you are checking the corresponding filing schedule. There will be different schedules for candidate committees vs. independent expenditures, etc.
- In the heat of your campaign, you might spend more money than you think. You need to be thoughtful in the beginning to have enough money for your winding down responsibilities and any last-minute campaign pushes.
- Don’t be hesitant to reach out to counsel thinking it will be too expensive. An experienced attorney will be able to quickly answer most of your questions on a short phone call.
- It is extremely Important to collaborate early with report filers.
About Darrin: Darrin Lim is a partner and co-founder of Politicom Law LLP. He is a leader in political law and corporate political compliance with a keen understanding of the patchwork of campaign finance, lobbying laws and government ethics rules throughout the United States.
Lacey Keys’ Lessons:
- The most important aspect to think about before fundraising is to understand the thresholds that will apply. The key is to know what activities are going to trigger registration before they are even going to happen.
- Keep in mind, the type of committee will dictate the filing jurisdictions. There are many different rules for small campaigns vs. large campaigns and candidates vs. ballot initiative campaigns. It is important to know what you must do to comply and what those deadlines will look like.
- You must understand what potential restrictions might apply before lining up donors. There might be source restrictions as well. There are many states that impose restrictions on lobbyists or other people trying to influence a certain political office.
- A candidate committee is defined as the bank account where the candidate puts all the money they pull from their supporters.
About Lacey: Lacey E. Keys, is a partner with Olson Hagel & Fishburn LLP, and counsels clients, including nonprofits and other organizations, on compliance with federal, state and local campaign finance, election, lobbying, and governmental ethics laws.
Leilani Rudow Beaver’s Lessons:
- As far as enforcements proceedings in CA, they are seeking to give campaigns the ability to learn and work through the process. Filing disclosure reports and disclaimers are key. All states are focusing heavily on money laundering laws as of late.
- An independent expenditure committee and PAC are very different entities. A regular PAC is going to be able to talk with the candidates, but they will have specific money limitations, while an independent expenditure will not be able to talk with the candidate, but there can be unlimited amount of money raised for the campaign. Reporting is different here as well, so make sure you know which you are getting involved with.
- When you are winding down, make sure all outstanding bills have been paid, and account for all closing requirements. You might have to terminate committees. There are tax reporting implications to think about as well. Depending on your jurisdiction, you may have financial audits after the election is over.
- Build the winding down process into your budget in the beginning of a campaign.
- Bring in your compliance team at the beginning of a campaign to talk strategy.
About Leilani: Leilani Rudow Beaver is an associate attorney at Kaufman Legal Group where she advises candidates, officeholders, political action committees and independent expenditure committees on federal, state and local campaign finance laws.
Elli Abdoli’s Lessons:
- In general, we’re seeing a lot more activity in the campaign finance arena. This is because we’re seeing media attention on dark money stories. It has invigorated a lot of regulators to investigate campaigns.
- There is a lot of distrust by the public and the media surrounding campaigns right now. It’s very easy to file a complaint online and anonymously. We are seeing a huge uptick in the complaints being filed. My advice would be to get these resolved as quickly as possible if they show up in your campaign.
- A PAC is generally an organization that is funding multiple different candidates or ballot measures. They look at a wide array of causes to support that ultimately align with their overall mission.
- It’s important to contact your attorney early. There are a lot of requirements that you might not even know about. Getting a lay of the land ahead of time is important so you know what you’re getting into before the campaign begins.
- Include a disclaimer in everything you do. Figure this out early and make sure you have donors that understand the disclosure requirements. Get these materials to your attorney early, so they can review. Attorneys need time to research disclaimers for social media, robocalls, etc. as these new entities are leading to a much different campaign landscape.
About Elli: Elli Abdoli is a partner with the firm’s political law section. She advises Fortune 500 companies, non-profits, trade associations and other organizations on complying with federal, state and local lobby, campaign finance and ethics laws, including developing and implementing comprehensive nationwide compliance systems.
A huge thank you to our speakers for sharing their expertise with the AAPC membership!