It’s election season in Louisiana! Canvassers are knocking on doors, yard signs are up, and polling firms are calling voters at a hectic pace. One of the most challenging, behind-the-scenes tasks of running a campaign is filing timely and accurate campaign finance reports. Below, we provide some tips to help you navigate campaign finance reporting.
Candidates are required to keep a checking account in the campaign’s name separate from their personal finances. All campaign contributions and expenses must be recorded in that account. In addition, candidates may want to invest in bookkeeping software. This will allow candidates to record contributions and expenses, reconcile bank statements, and track donors as they approach contribution limits. Candidates may also want to invest in a receipt book for cash contributions. Cash contributions are limited to $100 per person during the calendar year and a receipt must be filled out and signed by the contributor.
Candidates should save all receipts and records related to contributions. However, there is a limited exception to this rule for sales of campaign paraphernalia (e.g., campaign pins, buttons, badges, flags, emblems, hats, shirts, banners, etc.). Specifically, candidates are allowed to make sales of campaign paraphernalia to contributors as long as the sale total is $25 or less. Importantly, this exception only applies once per contributor.
Candidates should review the Louisiana Board of Ethics website (ethics.la.gov). This website provides information and resources to help candidates identify the various reporting that is required for their specific election. In addition, the Board of Ethics provides other helpful information such as the contribution limit amounts.
Once you have determined which reports your campaign needs to file and when, the next hurdle is actually filing the reports. Major (e.g., state-wide) and district-level candidates are required to file their reports electronically. In order to register for the online filing process, you must complete, sign, notarize, and mail in the Electronic Filing Affidavit. After the Louisiana Board of Ethics processes the affidavit, your campaign will be able to access the LEADERS web-based campaign finance reporting software.
The Board of Ethics website also has a helpful Schedule of Reporting and Filing Dates. This schedule indicates what reports must be filed and the deadlines. It is important to comply with the relevant deadlines, as penalties and interest may be assessed against campaigns that fail to comply.
Keep in mind that the reports filed by your campaign are public documents and are available on the Board of Ethics website for public viewing. The media, your opponent(s), potential donors, and constituents are all able to access these reports. Presenting the most accurate, timely, and professional reports possible will help paint your campaign in a positive light. If you need any help with your campaign finance reporting, please reach out to your P&N professional for guidance.