Heyl Royster

 

The Election Is Over – What Do I Do With My Campaign Funds?

As I can relate, an election season can be very exciting but also very stressful. This year, I have heard many say "I cannot wait until April 10" (the day after the election). However, while the end is upon us, please understand that in addition to your public responsibilities, you may still have other obligations, too.

For the purposes of this article, I am speaking about those of you who have raised money to campaign for elected office. While it is quite possible you are not raising hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars for your local municipal election, you may still have reporting obligations under the Illinois Election Code.1 This article does not touch on all of the requirements that may or may not apply to you, but this is at least an opportunity to remind you of some of them.

Under the Illinois Campaign Disclosure Act (found at 10 ILCS 5/9-1, et seq.), you are required to report to the Illinois State Board of Elections if you have accepted contributions or made expenditures in excess of $3,000 within a 12 month period or have made independent expenditures in excess of that same amount within a year.

Please remember a contribution is not just cash. For example, you might receive services or loans that go toward that $3,000 amount. In any event, once you reach that level, you have triggered a responsibility to form a committee and file reports with the Illinois State Board of Elections. The committee must have both a chairman and a treasurer, but nothing prohibits the candidate from being either one of those officers.

Even though the municipal elections conclude on April 9, nothing relieves you of your reporting obligations. Most notably, you will have quarterly responsibilities to report income and expenditures from the campaign. Even if you are not actively spending or fund-raising, reporting obligations continue and your failure to do so can lead to monetary penalties.

Rather than have continued reporting obligations, some will cease their committee's operation after an election and then reactivate it before the next one. This is permissible under the law, but you must submit a final report, in which you certify you have a $0.00 balance and have disposed of all assets. The State Board of Elections advises there are three ways of disposing of any remaining funds: 1) return funds to contributors in an amount not to exceed their contribution; 2) transfer funds to another political committee; or 3) donate funds to a charitable organization of the committee's choice.

You should also think about recent or upcoming correspondence with your supporters. For example, if you send thank you notes after the election, you should use the language mandated for communications seeking solicitations, because it is quite possible that someone may send (or you might even be asking for) funds to help cover any remaining debts or loans from the campaign. As a reminder, this language is currently "a copy of our report filed with the State Board of Elections is (or will be) available on the Board's official website (www.elections.il.gov) or for purchase from the State Board of Elections, Springfield, Illinois."

As I said at the beginning of this article, running for office is a very exciting time. However, the possibility of scrutiny for failing to follow disclosure laws both during (and especially after) a campaign can add stress to what should otherwise be a time to relax and re-energize after what I hope was a successful election for you.

If you ever have any questions related to filings with the State Board of Elections or other questions on election law, please do not hesitate to contact our offices.

1 Please note, however, that those running for federal office would not be governed solely by the Illinois' Election Code or its State Board of Elections. Instead, they would have responsibilities under federal law, such as requirements from the Federal Elections Commission.