PAC Management Essentials in a Non-Election Year
March 10, 2017
Peter Sherman, Senior Vice President, PAC Services
We’re already three months into 2017, a non-election year. But don’t get too comfortable, because the 2018 election season is already underway. As campaigns begin to take shape, it’s imperative to reassess what’s best for your PAC management. There are a number of items you’ll need to review to ensure your PAC remains compliant with federal and state campaign finance laws and regulations—and that it’s ready to engage when the election amps up.
Federal rules permit an organization to change the filing frequency of its federal PAC once a year. There are two options for filing frequency for federal PACs—monthly and quarterly:
- PACs that file monthly in 2017 must file a disclosure report on the 20th day of each month covering the previous month’s activity. It’s important to note that the report must always be filed by no later than the 20th regardless of whether it falls on a weekend or a holiday. There are no provisions in federal law that gives the FEC the authority to extend the reporting due date, which leaves no wiggle room for PACs in making sure the filings are done in a timely manner.
- PACs that file quarterly in 2017 actually need only file semi-annual reports. This means the next report is due on July 31 and covers activity through June 30. Thereafter, a report will not be due until January 31, 2018. The only exception to the rule is for PACs that make contributions in connection with a special election held in 2017—but then you may be required to file additional pre-election reports (which monthly filers are not required to file). Special elections scheduled in 2017, as of now, will be held in California, Georgia, Kansas, and South Carolina. If you do not anticipate making contributions in connection with any of these special elections, and your activity will be limited in 2017, changing your filing frequency from monthly to quarterly will significantly reduce your reporting requirements in 2017.
Cash on Hand
Another important thing to keep track of and evaluate is your PAC’s cash on hand. Each report filed with the FEC includes the PAC’s cash on hand as of January 1 of the reporting year. Make sure that information is updated in whatever database you use. Failure to update this information may cause your reports to inaccurately disclose the PAC’s current and ending cash on hand, prompting a letter from the FEC and the necessity of filing corrective amendments.
State Reporting Schedules
Keeping track of states’ different schedules is a major part of accurately managing your PAC’s compliance requirements. Many states have different reporting schedules in non-election years. For instance, some go from requiring quarterly reports to semi-annual reporting. If you make contributions at the state level, make sure you review your state’s specific reporting calendar for 2017. It is also imperative that you track election activity in any of the states in which you are active. If you make a contribution in a state that is holding special elections, you may incur additional reporting requirements—which means extra time spent towards compliance for your PAC.
To better manage all of the different schedules and requirements, it’s always a good idea to put together an annual calendar of state reporting dates. Most states have the campaign finance reporting calendar online for easy access. Make it a practice to visit these sites to remain up to date on reporting requirements as well as any developments in the campaign finance laws and regulations at the state level.
Typical to a new election cycle, many states have made changes in their respective contribution limits. Organizations must be aware of these changes prior to creating annual or cycle budgets and spending plans for the new election cycle.
Legislative Black-Out Periods
About half of the states prohibit or limit the making of contributions while the state legislature is in session. Before making a contribution to a state-level political committee, you will need to review the rules in the state to determine if there are such prohibitions.
Pay to Play
If your organization has contracts with a state or with a jurisdiction within a state, it is important that you be aware of any pay-to-play statutes that may exist. Failure to comply with pay-to-play rules can result in significant penalties, including the voiding of contracts and being prohibited from seeking future public contracts.
As you can see, there is a lot to consider when making political contributions. In addition to our state-of-the-art PAC management technology, DDC offers clients the option of outsourcing to DDC all federal and state compliance and the day-to-day tasks involved in running their political activities. From helping to organize a new PAC to running a multi-million dollar PAC, to overseeing corporate political activity, our staff of veteran PAC professionals work with our clients in all aspects of PAC management.
Our comprehensive PAC outsourcing services include preparation, review, and filing of federal and state compliance reports; review of proposed contributions to ensure compliance with federal and state giving regulations; preparation and delivery of checks; monthly reconciliation of bank accounts; budget tracking; generation of internal management reports; and more. Through outsourcing, DDC can serve as the organization’s administrative office and ensure all of the above is handled without incident or issue—all tailored to the needs and requirements of the client.
Managing an organization’s political activities can be time consuming and expensive. DDC’s outsourcing solution allows an organization to use its limited resources to build up its PAC and create a successful political program, while leaving the compliance and day-to-day responsibilities to us.