Campaign finance requirements for California ballot measures

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Campaign finance requirements for California ballot measures are promulgated by the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) and the California Secretary of State in accordance with a variety of constitutional requirements and laws, some of which were imposed by initiative.

Campaign finance reports with records of donors and expenditures are filed with the Secretary of State's office. This office maintains an online database called Cal-Access where interested parties can view the financial information that has been supplied to the Secretary of State's office by state candidates, statewide ballot measure committees and donors.

If someone wants to file a complaint alleging that a campaign finance law has been broken, that complaint is filed with the FPPC. The FPPC investigates complaints. Based on an investigation, it may dismiss a complaint, settle a complaint, or take an administrative action such as imposing a fine in response to its investigation regarding a complaint. Plaintiffs may sue the FPPC if they believe it has overstepped the law in its actions.

General requirements

Committee designation

Any person or group is considered to be a "committee" under California law. Committee is defined as any person or a group of persons who directly or indirectly receives contributions or make expenditures to influence the passage or defeat of a ballot measure[1].

Controlled committee

A controlled committee is defined under California law as a committee that is coordinated directly or indirectly by a candidate or a proponent of a ballot measure. Also, a controlled committee is defined as a group that acts in a joint fashion with a candidate, controlled committee, or state measure proponent in connection of making campaign expenditures[2].

Statement of organization

Once a committee is qualified, a Statement of Organization must be filed with the Secretary of State's Political Reform Division within 10 days of qualifying as a committee[3].

Slate mailer committee

A slate mailer committee is defined under California law as a committee that uses mass mailing to defeat four our more ballot measures in the same election. However, a legislative caucus or a state political party committee cannot engage in slate mailing activity[4].

Campaign finance requirements

California
LawsHistory
List of propositions

$100 cash limit

Under California law, a campaign cannot accept more than $100 in contributions or make expenditures in the same amount using cash[5].

Contribution limits

There is no limit under California law on campaign contributions made to groups in support or opposition of a ballot measure[6].

Mandatory electronic reporting

California became one of the first states in the nation to require mandatory electronic reporting of campaign finance activity beginning in the year 2000. Under law, all groups in support or opposition of a ballot measure must file their campaign finance reports online. The threshold for electronic reporting under the law is if a campaign has more than $100,000 or more in total financial activity including contributions, expenditures, and or loans received[7].

Misuse of funds law

Under California law, if a campaign treasurer misuses campaign funds the person is subject to a $5,000 fine or jail time up to sixteen months or both. In California, campaign finance funds can be used for

  • Securing signatures to initiative, referendum, or recall petitions.
  • Circulating initiative, referendum, or recall petitions.
  • Conducting public meetings.

Also campaign finance funds can used prior to an election for the printing and circulation of:

  • Sample/specimen ballots
  • Handbills
  • Cards
  • Other campaign related papers

Other legal uses of campaign funds can be used for:

  • Advertising
  • Postage
  • Phone expenses
  • All salaries and expenses of campaign managers, lecturers, solicitors, and agents.
  • Office space
  • Rental of meeting and conference rooms for campaign events.
  • All legal fees involving related litigation in court.
  • Contesting election results
  • Paying any fines levied by the Fair Campaign Practices Association.
  • All necessary travel expenses[8].

Reporting obligations

Committees formed or existing primarily to support or oppose the qualification, passage or defeat of a ballot measure, and proponents of a state ballot measure who control a committee formed to support the qualification of a measure, must file:

  • Semi-annual statements;
  • Pre-election statements;
  • Quarterly ballot measure statements;
  • Late contribution reports, if required[9].

Voluntary expenditure limits

Under California law, there is no voluntary expenditure limits for ballot measure groups despite candidates can sign an agreement to sticking with a voluntary expenditure limit with the Secretary of State's office[10].

Types of reports

Quarterly statements

Committees primarily formed to support the qualification, passage or defeat of a measure are required to file quarterly ballot measure statements before the election[11]. However, quarterly statements are not required during any semi-annual period in which the committee is required to file pre-election statements[12].

Quarterly reports are due on April 30 for activity conducted from January 1 to March 31 and for other activity from July 1 to September 30th[13].

Following the election, such committees are only required to file semi-annual statements. However, if the committee makes contributions to or expenditures on behalf of other similar measures, they have an ongoing duty to file quarterly statements[14].

Pre-election statements

Pre-election statements must be filed during the six-month period preceding the election during which the measure appears on the ballot. Under California law, if the ballot measure is placed for the June election then the first pre-election report is due on March 22 with March 17 being the end of the reporting period. A final pre-election report is due twelve days before the election with the reporting period being March 18 till seventeen (17) days before the election)[15].

If a measure is placed on the November ballot, the first pre-election report is due on October 5th with September 30th being the last day of the reporting period. The final pre-election report is due twelve days before the election with the reporting period being October 1st to seventeen (17) days before the election[16].

Late contribution reports

A late contribution is defined under California law as any contribution, including a loan, that totals one thousand dollars ($1,000) or more in aggregate that is made to or received by a committee aimed at the passage or defeat of a ballot measure before the date of the election before the measure is being voted on but is after the closing date of the last required finance report before the election[17].

If a late contribution is made, then it is the campaign's responsibility to report the contribution to the Secretary of State by a FAX transmission, guaranteed overnight delivery, or personal delivery within 24 hours of receiving a donation from an individual or if the donation came from another political committee[18].

Any late contributions first reported within the 24 hour threshold to the Secretary of State must have a summary of all late contributions included with its next campaign finance report[19].

Semi-annual statements

Semi-annual statements must be filed for each half of every year, regardless of the amount or level of activity. The closing dates for such semi-annual statements are June 30 (due July 31) and December 31 (due January 31)[20].

Campaign advertising restrictions

Any advertisement must have a disclosure statement if the contribution was paid with more than $50,000 in campaign contributions[21].

Any communication that includes a communication from an organization other than a political party to its members, a campaign button smaller than 10 inches in diameter, or a bumper sticker smaller than 60 square inches are exempt from the disclosure requirements[22].

Campaign slander law

Under California law, there are laws against slander and libel of campaign advertisements by any group that is in support or opposition of a ballot measure. If someone is found of violating the libel law, then the campaign must issue a retraction and pay any monetary damages in relation to the offense[23].

Terminating a committee

The Statement of Organization - Form 410 is used to terminate all types of recipient committees. The original and one copy must be filed with the Secretary of State's Political Reform Division. In addition, a copy of the Form 410 must be filed with each filing officer who received a copy of the committee's last campaign statement[24]

Under the law, committees must have zero contributions and expenditures along with zero surplus funds in order to terminate[24]

Research

The California Secretary of State maintains a database called Cal-Access of all of the campaign committees that have been organized to support or oppose propositions and ballot measures on California's statewide ballot.

See also

External links

References

  1. "California Legislature" California Code(Referenced Statute Section 309)
  2. "California Legislature" California Code(Referenced Statute Section 82106)
  3. "California Legislature" California Campaign Finance Law(Referenced Statute 84101(a))
  4. "California Legislature" California Campaign Finance Law(Referenced Statute 82048.4.(a)(b))
  5. "Justia" California Code(Referenced Statute 84300 (a)(b) California Government Code]
  6. "Justia" California Code(Contribution Limits Section)
  7. "California Legislature" California Campaign Finance Law(Referenced Statute 84604(a)(1) California Government Code)
  8. "California Legislature" California Election Code(Referenced Statute 18680 California Election Code]
  9. "Justia" California Code(Referenced Statute 84200.6 California Government Code]
  10. "California Legislature" California Government Code
  11. "Justia" Califorina Government Code(Referenced Section 84202.3(2)(a) California Code)
  12. "Justia" Califorina Government Code(Referenced Section 84202.3(2)(b) California Code)
  13. "Justia" Califorina Government Code(Referenced Section 84202.3(a)(1)-(2) California Code)
  14. "Justia" Califorina Government Code(Referenced Section 84202.3(2)(c) California Code)
  15. "Justia" Califorina Government Code(Referenced Section 84200.7 (a) (1)-(2) California Code)
  16. "Justia" Califorina Government Code(Referenced Section 84200.7 (b) (1)-(2) California Code)
  17. "California Legislature" California Government Code(Referenced Section 82306(a) California Code)
  18. "California Legislature" California Government Code(Referenced Section 84203 (b)California Code)
  19. "California Legislature" California Government Code(Referenced Section 84203(a)(d)California Code)
  20. "Justia" Califorina Government Code(Referenced Section 842000 California Code)
  21. "California Legislature" California Campaign Finance Law(Referenced Statute 84503 California Government Code)
  22. "California Legislature" California Campaign Finance Law(Referenced Statute 84501(b) California Government Code)
  23. "California Legislature" California Election Code(Referenced Sections 20501 and 20502)
  24. 24.0 24.1 "Fair Political Practices Commission" California Election Law(Referenced Statue 18404 California Code)