Campaign Finance

Understanding Campaign Finance Laws

Campaigns need to thoroughly know and understand the laws regarding campaign finance. Nothing can get a campaign into trouble like running afoul of campaign finance laws. The candidate, campaign treasurer, campaign manager, and anyone else who is helping with raising money or involved with spending money needs to know these rules.

Campaign finance laws differ in every jurisdiction. Even two candidates in the same state may have different sets of rules. For instance, a candidate for city council may adhere to the rules created by the city government, whereas a candidate for state legislature follows state laws.

Before we go any further, a general word of caution: consult your local board of elections for the applicable laws in your race.

Find a treasurer

Most campaigns are required to have a treasurer. This is the person who is officially responsible for the campaign’s money and who prepares and files the required campaign finance reports to disclose donors and spending. Your treasurer doesn’t necessarily need to be a bookkeeper or account, but the ideal pick will be someone who is detail oriented and very organized. They are going to need to track every dollar your campaign receives and every cent that the campaign spends.

Jump Start Your Political Campaign

Congratulations on making the decision to run for office! Politics is a difficult—but rewarding—endeavor. With these seven steps, you can get your campaign off to a successful start.

  1. Are you ready to run? Before you throw your hat into the ring, think hard about your decision to run. Talk to your spouse, family, friends, and key people in your community about whether or not to run. Be sure that you have their support and their commitment to help with your campaign. Make sure that you can take time off from work for your campaign; at the minimum you may need time off for debates and Election Day.

  2. Fill key roles. Determine who will play a central role in your campaign. You need to line up a campaign manager, a treasurer, and a "kitchen cabinet" of advisers. You’ll work most closely with your campaign manager to develop your campaign strategy and to execute this plan. (A word to the wise: Your spouse will most likely NOT make for a good campaign manager.) Your treasurer will handle the financial parts of your campaign. Although a background in accounting could be helpful, it’s not necessary. A good attention to detail will suffice. Your kitchen cabinet will be the backbone of your campaign and will provide you with advice, funds, and volunteer efforts.