Candidates for public office on a federal, state and local level all must file campaign finance statements.
The statements detail who has given money to their campaigns, and what they spent that money on.
Similar statements also are required for campaign committees supporting or opposing ballot initiatives on a state and local level (there are no national ballot initiatives), and other kinds of political advocacy committees.
What's in a Campaign Statement
Each campaign statement will detail the contributions a campaign committee received and expenditures it made during a reporting period.
While the format of campaign statements varies depending on whether they're filed for a federal, state or local race, almost all include these elements:
- Cover page - this lists the name of the campaign committee, the candidate (or ballot measure) the committee is supporting, the office the candidate is running for, the name of the committee's treasurer along with the treasurer's contact information, and the dates of the reporting period covered in the statement.
- Financial summary page - this reports total contributions received (cash donations, loans and non-monetary contributions) and total expenditures made during the reporting period. This page usually also includes totals for previous reporting periods, and a grand total for all contributions and expenditures during the current election cycle (primary or general election) or calendar year. Thus it adds the contributions and expenditures in the current reporting period to the committee's previously reported contributions and expenditures.
- Itemized contributions - the names of individuals or organizations that made a contribution to the commitee, the amount of each contribution, the date of the contribution, the address of the contributor, and the occupation and employer of the contributor. Often a running total of all contributions by a donor to the campaign committee will be included for the current campaign period (primary or general election) or for the current calendar year, adding the donor's current contribution to previous contributions the donor made to this campaign committee.
- Non-monetary contributions - non-cash donations to the committee such as office space, consulting services, food for a fundraiser, etc. These will list the person or company making the non-monetary donation, their address, a description of the non-monetary donation, the value of the donation and the date of the donation.
- Loans - any loans received by the campaign, listing the lender's name and address, the amount of the loan and often the interest rate being charged on the loan.
- Itemized expenditures - the names of people, businesses or organizations that were paid by the committee to perform services or provide supplies, along with their addresses and the amonts paid to them. The nature of the services or supplies provided is described, sometimes with a short code for different types of expenditures.
For more on what information is on a campaign statement, see:
- Federal Election Commission Registration and Reporting Forms - copies of the forms and instructions on filing.
- California Secretary of State Campaign Disclosure Statements - sample campaign statements, which include detailed explanations of what contributions and expenditures must be reported.
When Campaign Statements Are Filed
Campaign statements are filed periodically, each one covering a period of time leading up to an election.
For example, in the months leading up to a June primary election, a campaign committee might have to file three campaign statements - one covering January and February, another covering March and April and a third one covering part of May.
During off-election periods, office holders and candidate still must file campaign statements, usually semi-annually.
Where to Find the Statements
For federal offices, virtually all campaign statements are available online at the Federal Election Commission website. You also can use a search box there to find donations by particular individuals to all federal candidates.
Many states, including California, provide online access to state campaign statements.
Municipalities increasingly are putting online campaign statements in local races. But in many cases you still have to go to the government office, such as a city clerk's office, to view the campaign reports.
Stories Using Campaign Statements
Citizens Outspent: Inside Richmond’s $4m Election Campaign - Richmond Confidential, 11/5/2012
Filed under: Public Records