Citizens Guide 2019 20

Citizens Guide 2019 20


Citizens Guide to Supporting Federal Candidates, an online presentation of the FEC’s Information Division. This presentation is designed to encourage
citizens, like yourself, to take an active part in the Federal election process. As you’ll soon learn, there are several ways
you may support candidates running for the U.S. House, Senate and Presidency. Certain activities, however, are subject to
the Federal campaign finance law. For example, the law limits the amount of
you may contribute and prohibits certain people and organizations from making contributions. The law also requires public disclosure of
certain campaign finance information. While there are many ways you may support
candidates for federal office, three of the most common are listed here: contributions,
independent expenditures and volunteer activity. The campaign finance law defines the term
contribution very broadly to include anything of value given for the purpose of influencing
a federal election. That includes donations of money, goods and
services; and any special discounts offered outside the normal course of business. Contributions are subject to limits both on
their source and amount, and must be disclosed to the public. Any contributions you make to federal candidates
and committees are subject to the limits set forth in this chart. The highlighted limits are adjusted for inflation
each election cycle, so be sure you’re looking at the most current limits chart before making
a contribution. If you contribute more than $200 to a candidate,
PAC or party committee, your name, address, occupation and employer will be disclosed
as part of the recipient committee’s report to the FEC. Those reports are made public in the FEC’s
Public Records Office and on our website. The law prohibits contributions from certain
sources, including corporations and labor organizations, government contractors and
foreign nationals. As an exception to the corporate labor ban,
corporations and unions may sponsor PACs that raise money from the company’s employees and
stockholders or the union’s members. Those PAC funds may be used to make contributions
to federal candidates. The government contractor ban applies to persons
holding contracts to provide goods or services to the federal government. If you just work for a company that has a
government contract, the ban does not prevent you from making personal contributions. The foreign national ban applies to anyone
who is not either a US citizen or a green card holder. That ban applies to all US elections, federal,
state and local. It is also illegal to make a contribution
in the name of another — that is to reimburse or otherwise fund another person’s contribution. Now let’s talk about independent expenditures. Unlike contributions, independent expenditures
are not subject to any amount limitation, and corporations and unions can use their
treasury funds to make them. Independent expenditures are payments for
communications, like this TV ad, that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a candidate but are not coordinated with that candidate’s campaign. Every independent expenditure must include
a disclaimer that identifies who paid for it and that person must report their activity
to the FEC. If you spend $250 or more on an independent
expenditure, you’ll need to report to the FEC on Form 5. Those reports are generally filed on a quarterly
schedule. However, if your independent expenditure is
made more than 20 days before the election and totals $10,000 or more, you’ll need to
disclose it within 48 hours. Closer to the election, 24 hour reports are required for independent expenditures of $1,000 or more. Now let’s discuss volunteer activities. The campaign finance law includes a number
of exemptions that allow individuals to provide volunteer services to federal candidates and
party committees without those services being treated as a contribution. For instance, you can provide personal services,
host an event in your home and make limited use of workplace or labor union facilities
without making a contribution. You may volunteer your personal services to
a campaign without making a contribution as long as you’re not compensated by anyone else. For example, if you help to organize a voter
drive or offer your particular skills to a campaign, neither of those activities would result in a contribution, as long as you aren’t compensated. If you are compensated, the activity is no
longer considered volunteer activity and the payments, if made by someone other than the
campaign itself, result in an in-kind contribution from that person, subject to the limits, prohibitions
and reporting requirements of the Act. If you host a campaign-related gathering in
your home, community room or church the cost of the invitations and the food and beverages
served at the event are not considered contributions if they remain under certain limits. If the event benefits a candidate, the limit
is $1,000 per election. If the activity benefits a political party
committee, the limit is $2,000 per year on behalf of all committees of the same political party. Incidental use of your employer’s or labor
union’s facilities for volunteer activity will not result in a contribution as long
as the activity does not interfere with your work or the organization’s normal activities. You’ll need to reimburse the organization
for any increased costs or if your activity involves more than incidental use the facilities. Generally, incidental use is no more than
an hour a week or four hours per month. The Federal Election Commission is committed
to encouraging compliance with the federal campaign finance laws. In addition to the information we provide
on our web site; we maintain a toll-free information line you can call for help without having
to identify yourself; we respond within five business days to questions sent by e-mail;
and we conduct conferences throughout the country, host webinars on a variety of topics,
and post e-learning videos–like this one–on our website and YouTube channel. We encourage you to make use of these resources,
and look forward to serving you.

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