Major Donor Reporting (January 2015) 318

This Alert summarizes upcoming filing deadlines for individuals, businesses and nonprofits which make $10,000 or more in campaign contributions to California state and/or local candidates, ballot measures, PACs and/or political parties in a calendar year (i.e., “Major Donors”).


Most notably, all 2015 Major Donors must file a year-end report by Monday, February 1, 2016.  This report must include all contributions and “independent expenditures” made in 2015 – or all contributions made since the last Major Donor report filed in 2015, if a mid-year or quarterly report was filed.


24-Hour Reporting


The law requires Major Donors to file reports within 24 hours of making a contribution of $1,000 or more within the 90 days before an election, including contributions made to candidates and ballot measures which will appear on the ballot, and contributions to state and local political parties.  The 24-hour reporting period for the June 2016 election will start on March 9th.


The 24-hour reporting requirement is in effect for at least 6 months out of every year, and local jurisdictions often schedule “special elections” at times throughout the year other than June or November (including at least one special local election already set for this February).  Accordingly, if the Sutton Law Firm prepares and files your campaign reports, we recommend that you notify us of all of your contributions on the same day they are made – as the best way to make certain that a 24-hour report is not inadvertently missed.  The Secretary of State’s office routinely levies $10 per day late filing penalties for these 24-hour reports, and the FPPC often levies additional administrative fines, depending on the size of the contribution and how late the report is filed.


Electronic Filing in Local Jurisdictions


Individuals and entities which make most of their political expenditures in a single city or single county must file their Major Donor reports with the applicable city clerk, county registrar or ethics commission, rather than with the Secretary of State’s office.  More and more local filing officers are requiring Major Donor reports to be filed electronically – which requires specialized software, obtaining a password, getting your “wet” signature notarized on a certification form, etc.  You therefore first need to  determine whether you qualify as a city or county Major Donor (Have 70 percent or more of your contributions and independent expenditures gone to candidates and committees in a single jurisdiction within a two-year period?), then need to confirm whether the city or county requires electronic filing, and if so, which specific procedures must be followed.


Importantly, making just one contribution of any amount to a state-level candidate or committee means that you will qualify as a state Major Donor and only have to file reports with the Secretary of State’s office – though state Major Donors also have to file reports electronically under certain circumstances.


Feel free to contact any Sutton Law Firm attorney or Political Compliance Specialist with any questions about these reporting requirements.




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