Multiple factors determine whether a candidate running for state, local, or judicial office must register a campaign and disclosure to the public campaign contributions and expenditures. Candidates seeking election to a federal office are regulated by the Federal Elections Commission.
The first step is understanding that an individual becomes a candidate upon doing any one of these activities:
Most candidates must disclose personal financial information about themselves, their spouse or registered domestic partner, and dependents. Some candidates must register the campaign with the Public Disclosure Commission. Filing requirements are determined by the office sought and how much money the candidate expects to raise and spend:
The C-1 and F-1 are due within two weeks of becoming a candidate.
Only those candidates who must register their campaigns will have to determine whether they will go on to disclose contributions and expenditures. The Public Disclosure Commission has created the mini reporting option for candidates who raise and spend $0 - $5,000.
Mini reporting allows a candidate to raise and spend up to $5,000 without filing contribution or expenditure reports, so long as no more than $500 is received from a single contributor. There are two exceptions to the $500 aggregate contribution limit: (1) a bona fide party committee may pay the candidate's filing fee and (2) the candidate's personal contribution is not limited to $500. There are no exceptions to the $5,000 mini reporting threshold. This option should be selected only after a candidate has carefully considering how much money the campaign will need to raise and spend and are certain the limitations will not be exceeded.
A candidate who is unsure how much money will be raised or does not wish to limit how much money the campaign may raise and spend overall should select the full reporting option. Selecting full reporting means that the candidate must file regular reports disclosing contributions and expenditures.
A candidate must open a bank account upon receiving a monetary contribution. Monetary contributions must be deposited within five business days of receipt. The name on the account should be the campaign committee name on the C-1. Most banks will require the candidate to have an Employer Identification Number, which is obtained from the Internal Revenue Service. (The PDC's Candidate manual explains IRS contact options.)
State law requires electronic filing of PDC reports except when the executive director has granted a hardship exemption. The PDC's free ORCA software can be installed and used by candidates to fulfill the electronic filing requirement. The PDC also has online applications for filing the C-1 and F-1.
The Index of Forms explains the purpose of each report and when it is due. The PDC calendar shows actual report due dates. Reporting dates are also programmed into the ORCA software. Generally,
Additionally, during the week before the primary election and the three weeks before the general election, a candidate must file a special report within 48 hours of receiving $1,000 or more from a single source in the aggregate during the special reporting period. Any contributions received outside of the special reporting period do not count towards the $1,000 threshold.
The key to complying with campaign disclosure requirements is to keep detailed records of each contributions and expenditure and file reports on time. Keep all campaign records for five years after the election. Campaign books include bank statements, deposit slips, canceled checks, checkbook register as well as receipts, invoices, copies of contribution checks, notes or documents regarding orders placed or loans, etc. A ledger, journal, or similar record may be maintained to identify contributions (contributor information, amount, and date received) and expenditures (vendor, item or service provided, and cost).
Campaign books must be available for public inspection during the last eight days before an election.
Voters passed I-276 to establish the Public Disclosure Commission and Washington's disclosure requirements as a means for making government more transparent and creating a mechanism that allowed the public to follow the money in campaigns. Campaigns should take care to record each contribution that it receives. The allowed limit for a cash - actual currency - contributions is $100. A contribution bigger than that must be made by written instrument. A candidate may keep aggregate anonymous contributions up to $300 or 1% of the total contributions received, whichever is greater. If a candidate receives excess anonymous contributions, the money is to be deposited and then turned over to the state by sending to the PDC a campaign check for the excess amount payable to the State General Fund.
No more than $5,000 may be accepted by a legislative or local office candidate from a single source other than a bona fide state party committee during the last 21 days before a general election. The threshold increases to $50,000 for a Supreme Court or state executive office candidate. Contribution limits enacted by voters in 1992 prevent most candidates from receiving contributions anywhere near these thresholds from a contributor other than a bona fide party committee. The limits for contributors other than party or caucus campaign committees are:
|Amount Per Election||Office Sought|
State Senator or Representative
Mayor, City Council
Deposit campaign contributions within five business days of receipt.
Bona fide political party and caucus campaign committees' limits are determined by the number of registered voters in the jurisdiction where the candidate seeks office and are found here.
Candidates for mayor and city council should check with the city's clerk to learn whether the city has enacted lower limits that the city enforces. There are no contribution limits in effect for candidates running for local offices that are not listed here.
** Only candidates running for commissioner in King County Hospital Dists. 1 and 2 and Snohomish County Hospital Dist. 2 (districts with a population exceeding 150,000).
Generally, political ads of all types must identify the sponsor of the ad. In partisan campaigns, all ads must contain the candidate's party preference. Details about these and other requirements can be found in the Political Advertising brochure.
This brochure is intended to be an overview of the subjects with which candidates and their campaign treasurers should become familiar. Candidates should refer to the online manuals for more complete instructions. The information contained in online instructions has been distilled from the requirements set out in RCW 42.17A and Title 390 WAC, as well as the Public Disclosure Commission's declaratory orders and interpretations. Care has been taken to make the instructions accurate and concise. Nevertheless, the instructions cannot be substituted for the applicable laws and rules