With respect to receipts, the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) requires reporting of all receipts, but requires recordkeeping only for contributions. Nevertheless, an SSF must keep records for all types of receipts in order to comply with the reporting requirements of the Act and FEC regulations. The committee must maintain the following information for contributions of any amount and should maintain these records for other receipts:
- Amount received;
- Date of receipt; and
- Name and address of source.
Date of receipt
The “date of receipt” of a contribution is the date on which a person receiving the contribution on behalf of the SSF obtains possession of it. This is the date used for recordkeeping and reporting. The date of receipt may be earlier than the date the SSF treasurer receives the money, since a person collecting contributions has several days in which to forward them to the treasurer. (See Forwarding contributions.)
Date of payroll deduction receipts
The date of receipt for a payroll deduction contribution is the date the funds are withheld from an employee's paycheck.
Date of credit card receipts
When the committee receives contributions through credit card charges, the date of receipt is the date on which the committee receives the contributor’s authorization to charge the contribution. The treasurer should retain a copy of the authorization form in the committee’s records.
Date of text message receipts
The date of receipt for contributions sent by text message is the date the contributor “opts-in,” or confirms that he or she intends to make the contribution, and certifies his or her eligibility.
Date received for in-kind contributions
The date of receipt for an in-kind contribution is the date the goods or services are provided to the committee, even if the contributor pays the bill for the goods or services after they are provided.
Deposit of receipts
The treasurer of the SSF is required to deposit all receipts within 10 days of the treasurer’s receipt, with the exception of any contribution that is returned to the contributor within that same time frame.
Records must show figures for total contributions received.
Contributions of $50 or less
The Commission recommends two possible accounting methods that satisfy recordkeeping requirements for contributions of $50 or less:
- Keep the same records as those required for contributions that exceed $50 (amount, date of receipt and contributor’s name and address); or
- In the case of small contributions collected at a fundraising event (such as gate receipts, cash contributions, etc.) keep a record of the name of the event, the date and the total amount of contributions received on each day of the event.
Contributions exceeding $50
Records must identify each contribution exceeding $50 by noting the:
- Date of receipt; and
- Contributor’s name and address.
Furthermore, SSFs must maintain either a full-sized photocopy or digital image of each check or written instrument by which a contribution of more than $50 is made.
Contributions aggregating over $200
For each contribution that exceeds $200, either by itself or when added to the contributor’s previous contributions made during the same calendar year, records must identify each contribution by the:
- Date of receipt; and
- Contributor’s full name and address, occupation and employer.
If a person has already contributed an aggregate amount of over $200 during a calendar year, each subsequent contribution, regardless of amount, must be recorded and identified in the same way.
Contributions by text message
Recipient committees are solely responsible for ensuring that contributions sent by text messages are lawful under the Act and Commission regulations. Committees should work with the text messaging application provider to collect the name, address, occupation and employer of individuals making contributions that aggregate over $200 in a calendar year. Committees must return or refund any contribution that comes from a prohibited source.
Contributions from political committees
Although SSFs may not solicit other political committees, they may receive unsolicited contributions from political committees. Records must identify each contribution from a political committee, regardless of amount, by noting the amount, date of receipt and the name and address of the contributing political committee.
Recording possibly illegal contributions
When a committee has reason to question the legality of a contribution, it has specific time frames in which to clarify whether the contribution is permissible. While investigating a contribution, the committee must keep a written record noting the basis for concern for each deposited contribution that:
- Requires a written reattribution from the contributor; or
- Requires confirmation that it is not from a prohibited source.
Recordkeeping for reattributions of excessive contributions
The SSF must keep documentation for each reattribution to verify it was received within the 60-day time limit. Documentation for a reattribution must include one of the following:
- A copy of the postmarked envelope bearing the contributor’s name, return address or other identifying code;
- A copy of the signed statement reattributing the contribution with a date stamp showing the date of the SSF’s receipt; or
- A copy of the written reattribution dated by the contributor.
A committee must retain copies of reattributions for three years.
Recordkeeping for possibly prohibited contributions
Keep a written record explaining why the contribution may be illegal and include this explanation on Schedule A if the contribution has to be itemized before its legality is established. As evidence of legality, the treasurer should obtain a written statement from the contributor explaining why the contribution is legal. Alternatively, the treasurer may obtain an oral explanation by telephone and keep a record of the conversation.
Treasurer’s best efforts
SSFs and their treasurers must make best efforts to obtain and maintain (and ultimately report) the information required by law with respect to itemized receipts (and disbursements). When reporting information is incomplete, the committee and the treasurer will be in compliance with the law if they can demonstrate that they used “best efforts” in trying to obtain, maintain and report the needed information. The criteria for making “best efforts” vary, depending on the type of transaction.
If an individual who has contributed more than $200 during the calendar year fails to provide the required recordkeeping information (i.e., name, mailing address, occupation and employer), the committee must be able to show that it made “best efforts” to obtain, maintain and report that information. To demonstrate “best efforts,” the committee must be able to show that it requested the information—first, in the solicitation materials that prompted the contribution and, second, if the information is not obtained, in a follow-up request.
Furthermore, if requested information is not received until after the contribution has been reported, the committee must report the information as explained under "File amendments if necessary."
To satisfy the “best efforts” standard, the solicitation must include a statement explaining that the SSF is required to use its best efforts to obtain and report certain information from the contributor. This statement is referred to as the “best efforts notification.”
Best efforts notification
- Federal law requires us to use our best efforts to collect and report the name, mailing address, occupation and the name of employer of individuals whose contributions exceed $200 in a calendar year; or
- To comply with federal law, we must use our best efforts to obtain, maintain and submit the name, mailing address, occupation and name of employer of individuals whose contributions exceed $200 per calendar year.
The request for the information and the best efforts notification must be clear and conspicuous. If the committee’s solicitations include response materials, the best efforts notice and the request for the contributor information must be placed on these materials. The notice will not be considered to be “clear and conspicuous” if:
- The notification is printed in smaller type than the solicitation and response materials;
- The printing is difficult to read; or
- The notification is placed where it can be easily overlooked.
Follow-up request within 30 days
If the contributor does not provide sufficient reporting information when making a contribution, the committee must make at least one request for the information after the contribution is received. This follow-up request must be made for any solicited or unsolicited contribution that exceeds the $200 threshold and lacks the necessary information.
The request must be made within 30 days of receipt of the contribution; it may not include an additional solicitation or material on any other subject, but it may thank the contributor. The follow-up request may be made orally or in writing, but a written request must be accompanied by a pre-addressed postcard or envelope for the response. Requests made by telephone must be documented in a memorandum. A political committee may also, in certain circumstances, use email to request missing contributor information. Committees must retain records of follow-up requests.
Use of information from prior records and the connected organization
If the contributor does not respond to the follow-up request, the committee must disclose any information it possesses in its contributor records, fundraising records or prior reports filed during the same two-year election cycle or any in contributor information maintained by the connected organization.
File amendments if necessary
If requested information about a contribution is received after the contribution has been disclosed on a report, the committee must either:
- File a Schedule A with its next regularly scheduled report, containing memo entries listing all contributions for which new contributor information has been received; or
- File amendments to the original reports.
In either case, the entries must cross-reference to the prior reports to which they relate. However, the committee is only required to submit the information for contributions received during the current two-year election cycle.