The campaign finance reporting process for candidates running for state office in Kentucky is governed by Chapter 121 of the Kentucky Statutes. All state candidates must file campaign finance documents with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance. Candidates seeking federal office must file with the Federal Election Commission. Reporting details for federal candidates are not included in this section.
Prior to raising or spending any money related to their campaign, candidates must file with the Kentucky Secretary of State. If a candidate wishes to campaign prior to filing, he or she may notify the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance with a letter of intent. If filing a letter of intent, the following must be included: candidate's name, birth date, mailing address, phone number, office the candidate seeks, year in which the election will be held, the treasurer's name, address and phone number, and the name and address of the financial institution designated as the campaign depository. If candidates do filing a letter of intent and begin campaigning before the year of an election, they will be required to file quarterly finance statements until the year they will appear on the ballot.
For candidates who wait to campaign until they have filed with the Kentucky Secretary of State, an Appointment of Campaign Treasurer and optional Request for Reporting Exemption form (KREF 001) will have to be filed as well. This form designates a campaign treasurer and indicates the financial institutional the campaign will be using. Any Kentucky voter may become a candidate's treasurer, including the candidate. The form also allows a candidate to request an exemption from reporting. The exemption determines how much money will be raised/spent in the campaign and how many reports must be filed. Candidates can choose an exemption for both the primary and general elections. Candidates not running in the primary election are still responsible for filing the campaign finance statements. Candidates who run in the primary election and are successful must close out their primary reporting before moving on to general election reporting.
There are three types of exemption options:
- Intent to raise/spend $1,000 or less
- Intent to raise/spend $3,000 or less
- These candidates are required to file only one report: the 30-Day Post-Election Report, unless campaign funds exceed $3,000.
- If a candidate's campaign indicates a surplus of funds or a debt owed on the 30-Day Report, a 60-Day Post-Election Supplemental Election Finance Statement must be filed. If the 60-Day supplemental report also shows a surplus of funds or outstanding debt, candidates will be required to file supplemental reports annually until the account no longer shows a surplus or debt. These annual supplemental reports must be filed with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance no later than 10 days after November 1 of each year the report is needed.
- Intent to raise/spend $3,000 of more
- These candidates do not claim any exemptions and thus must file all financial reports.
- They must file the following reports for each election:
- 32-Day Pre-election Finance Statement
- 15-Day Pre-election Finance Statement
- 30-Day Post-election Finance Statement
- 60-Day Post-election Supplemental Election Finance Statement (only required if a candidate's campaign indicates a surplus of funds or a debt owed on the 30-Day report)
- Annual Supplemental Reports (only required if the 60-Day supplemental report also shows a surplus of funds or outstanding debt and must be filed with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance no later than 10 days after November 1 of each year the campaign shows a surplus or debt of funds.)
- All reports must include:
- Any contribution made by a permanent committee, along with the committee’s name and business address, date of contribution, amount contributed, and a description of the major business, social, or political interest the committee represents.
- Details of each contribution received in excess of $100, including the date, name, address, age if less than 18, occupation, employer and spouse of the contributor.
- Total amount of contributions received.
- Details of each expenditure authorized, incurred or made in excess of $25, including the name, address and occupation of each person to whom an expenditure was made, along with the amount, date and purpose of each expenditure.
Candidates may file the above reports themselves, with the help of a designated treasurer, or they may form a campaign committee to act on their behalf. To form such a committee, a Political Committee Registration form (KREF010) and Waiver From Filing Candidate Election Finance Statements form (KREF 011) must be filed with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.
In addition to reporting requirements, candidates are also subject to contribution limits. The definition of a contribution encompasses not only money, but also goods, advertising, loans other than bank loans, and services given to a candidate or his or her committee. The table below details a number of specific contribution limits.
|Source of contribution||Maximum contribution allowed||Additional notes|
|Individual||$1,000 per election|
|Individual under 18 years of age||$100|
|Permanent committee (PAC)||$1,000 per election||The total amount a candidate retains for PACs per election cannot be more than 50 percent of the candidate's total contributions, or $10,000, whichever is greater.|
|Contributing organization||$1,000 per election|
|Executive committee||Unlimited||The total amount cannot be more than 50 percent of the candidate's total contributions, or $10,000, whichever is greater.|
|Caucus campaign committee||Unlimited|
|Candidate to his/her own fund||Unlimited|
Additional contribution limits include:
- Candidates cannot accept cash contributions in excess of $50 per contributor.
- Candidates cannot accept anonymous contributions in excess of $50 per contributor, per election. If an anonymous contribution in excess of $50 is received, it must be returned to the donor if it is possible to trace, and if the donor cannot be traced, the contribution must be forfeit to the state.
- Contributions made by one person in the name of another is prohibited.
- Contributions from another candidate's campaign account is prohibited. However, candidates are allowed to purchase tickets to another candidate's fundraiser or other event up to $100 per event.
- Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, "Candidate Guide to Campaign Finance," Accessed January 21, 2014
- Kentucky Registry of Election Finance Website, "Welcome Packets for Candidates & Treasurers," Accessed January 21, 2014
- Kentucky Registry of Election Finance Website, "Spending Intent: $1,000 or Less," Accessed January 21, 2014
- Kentucky Registry of Election Finance Website, "Spending Intent: $3,000 or Less," Accessed January 21, 2014
- Kentucky Registry of Election Finance Website, "Welcome Packet--More than $3,000," Accessed January 21, 2014
- Kentucky Statutes, "Chapter 121, Section 180," Accessed January 21, 2014
- Kentucky Statutes, "Chapter 121, Section 015," Accessed January 21, 2014
- Kentucky Statutes, "Chapter 121, Section 150," Accessed January 21, 2014