See statutes: Title 17, Chapter 5 of the Code of Alabama
The campaign finance reporting process for candidates seeking state office is outlined below. Candidates seeking federal office must file with the Federal Election Commission. Reporting details for federal candidates are not included in this section.
The following is a list of definitions for campaign finance terms.
- A candidate is an individual who has either filed the necessary paperwork with the Alabama Secretary of State to qualify as a candidate or else is an individual who has received contributions or made expenditures in excess of $1,000 with a view to getting elected to public office.
- A contribution is a gift, subscription, loan, advance, deposit of money or anything of value, a payment, a forgiveness of a loan, a payment of a third party, payment of compensation for personal services or expenses on behalf of the candidate, or transfer of anything of value made for the purpose of influencing the result of an election. A contract or agreement to do anything included in that list is also considered a contribution.
- An expenditure is a purchase, payment, distribution, loan, advance, deposit, transfer, or gift of money or anything of value made for the purpose of influencing the result of an election. A contract or agreement to do anything included in that list is also considered an expenditure.
Before campaign reporting can begin, the following two forms must be filed. Any candidate who receives $10,000 or more in contributions during an election cycle must file all forms and reports online here.
- Appointment of Campaign Committee forms must be filed with the secretary of state within five days of becoming a candidate. This form organizes a campaign finance committee for the candidate and lists who will serve on the committee. Candidates may serve as their own campaign finance committee, or they may appoint two to five people to serve. Candidates may also appoint a Designated Filing Agent, who will then be authorized to file all reports for the candidate.
- Statements of Economic Interests must be filed with the secretary of state at the same time candidates file to become a candidate. This form covers the previous year's finances. If candidates already have a Statement of Economic Interests on file, they do not have to file it a second time.
Once the Appointment of Campaign Committee form and Statement of Economic Interests have been filed, candidates are split into two groups: those who have reached the $1,000 threshold and those who have not. Those who have not reached that threshold are not required to file any campaign finance reports until they reach the threshold. Candidates who have gone over the $1,000 threshold must report all contributions from a single source and all expenditures to a single recipient greater than $100. The required reports are outlined below.
- Annual Reports cover the candidate's campaign finances during the year preceding the election. These reports are due no later than January 31 of the succeeding year and are only required from campaign finance committees not already filing monthly reports for a candidate in the current election cycle.
- Monthly Reports include all reportable transactions for each month and are due no later than the second business day of the of the month following the month covered in the report.
- Weekly Reports are filed once a week for the four weeks leading up to an election. In regards to these reports, a week is defined as running from Saturday to Friday. The first weekly report must include all reportable transactions that occurred since the most recently filed prior report. These reports are due on the Monday following the Friday covered in the report.
- Daily Reports are required from candidates running for state legislature or state executive office whose campaign finance committees receive or spend $5,000 or more on any of the eight days prior to an election. Once that amount is reached, the candidate’s committee is required to file this report every day until the election. These are due each day by 11:59 p.m., including the Saturday and Sunday before the election.
- Major Contribution Reports are required if a candidate's campaign finance committee receives a contribution of $20,000 or more that is not already included on a monthly, weekly, or daily report. If it is not included on one of those reports, it must be filed on a Major Contribution Report and is due within two days of receiving the contribution.
Duplicate reports are never required. If a candidate’s committee is required to file a daily report, then a weekly report does not have to be filed for the week before the election, and if a candidate’s committee is required to file a weekly report, a monthly report is not required, etc.
In addition to reporting requirements, candidates are subject to the following limitations:
- Candidates may not begin raising funds until 12 months prior to the election in which they intend to be on the ballot, except when the Alabama State Legislature is in session. There is one exception to that, however. Candidates are always allowed to fundraise within 120 days of a primary, primary run-off or general election, regardless of the state legislature. These restrictions do not apply to loans candidates make to their own committees or to expenditures. Candidates are also allowed to continue spending money when the Alabama State Legislature is in session.
- Candidates may only accept contributions for the following purposes:
- to influence the outcome of an election
- to pay off a campaign debt
- to pay all expenses associated with an election challenge
- Candidates may spend campaign funds, including excess funds after the election, only for the following purposes:
- expenditures of the campaign
- expenditures that are reasonably related to performing the duties of the office held (for example, this does not include living expenses)
- donations to an educational, charitable or other organizations that are exempt from federal taxes
- inaugural or transitional expenses
- donations to a legislative caucus organization, as long as it does not operate as a political action committee
- payments to political parties, including qualifying fees, tickets to party functions, party dues, and donations up to $5,000 to the political party. Independent and write-in candidates may pay similar expenses
- No candidate’s campaign committee can contribute to another candidate’s campaign committee unless the committees are for the same candidate, then a transferral of funds is allowed.
- State campaign committees cannot accept more than $1,000 in contributions from a campaign committee of a federal candidate.
- Candidates only have 120 days after an election to raise funds to pay off campaign debts.
- Code of Alabama 1975, "Section 17-5-2," accessed January 8, 2014
- Alabama Secretary of State, "Candidate Filing Guide," accessed January 8, 2014
- Alabama Code, "Section 17-5-4," accessed January 8, 2014
- Alabama Code, "Section 36-25-15," accessed January 8, 2014
- Alabama Secretary of State, "FCPA Filing Calendar--2014 Election Cycle," accessed January 8, 2014
- Alabama Code, "Section 17-5-8," accessed January 8, 2014
- Alabama Code, "Section 17-5-7," accessed January 8, 2014
- Alabama Code, "Section 17-5-15," accessed January 8, 2014
- Center for Competitive Politics, "2013 State Legislative Trends: Campaign Contribution Limits Increase in Nine States," accessed April 3, 2014