The Importance of a Political Campaign Bank Account
Candidates and committees that solicit and accept contributions must have a political campaign bank account. In addition, the bank must be informed that the committee is registered with the CFB.
If a committee uses a personal credit card to make a purchase, the expense must be recorded and reported in detail on the campaign finance reports.
All political candidates must raise money to pay for things like travel expenses, advertising costs, mailers, and office supplies. A political campaign bank account is one way to accept donations from supporters and to keep track of fundraising activities.
Most traditional banks, savings and loan associations or credit unions can handle the banking needs of a political committee. However, some institutions specialize in meeting the unique banking requirements of a political campaign. One such institution is Chain Bridge Bank, N.A. Its officers are familiar with campaign finance regulation and they are committed to promptly servicing political accounts.
To open a political campaign bank account, you must first register your committee with your local county board of elections. Bring your committee registration paperwork and committee Employer Identification Number to the bank when you open the account. Interest earned on the political campaign bank account must be reported in financial reporting documents. A good rule of thumb is to use a free checking account instead of an interest-bearing savings account.
The accounting process for a political campaign bank account is highly regulated. A professional political campaign accountant ensures compatibility with these regulations and a full understanding of the financial reporting requirements.
A candidate committee must file reports with the CFB on a regular basis to disclose activity. These reports include information on contributions received and expenditures made, including those paid through a committee’s own bank account. These reports can be filed online through the CFB’s electronic filing home page.
When it comes to spending from a campaign’s own bank account, the following transaction types must be disclosed on the committee’s disclosure report: In-Kind Contributions Received, Loan/Liability Forgiveness, Outstanding Loans/Liabilities and Attribution to Partners/LLC Owners. These transactions do not affect the committee’s balance, but serve to record and provide transparency for all filers. The CFB also requires a “paid for by” attribution statement on any published material that expressly advocates the nomination, election or defeat of a candidate.
A bank account provides a way for committees to deposit funds and use those funds to pay expenses. Committees can earn a small amount of interest on their accounts, but this income must be reported in campaign finance reports.
A candidate’s campaign can raise millions or even billions of dollars and these funds must be accounted for. The money may be used for travel, administration, and salaries. A candidate may also give gifts or refund contributions to donors. In addition, these funds can be transferred to another candidate or invested for future political campaigns.
The rules and regulations of both the House and Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) provide guidelines on how a candidate’s funds can be used. For example, a member can transfer up to $5,000 from their previous campaign account to their current campaign, provided that the transaction is lawful. In addition, a candidate can make a self-loan or contribution to their own campaign for up to $300.
A campaign bank account is a necessary step in accepting donations and funding a political committee. It is best to open this type of account as early in the campaign as possible. Most traditional banks, savings and loan associations and credit unions can handle these accounts.
Ensure that the committee name from your registration with the CFB is used as the committee name on the bank account. Some banks require that you provide a federal EIN, state corporation ID or business tax ID to open an account. This is not a Minnesota election law requirement, but may be an internal banking policy.
If you are a current officeholder who is running for reelection to the same office, you can carry over non-surplus campaign funds from one controlled committee to another for reelection without attribution using the last in, first out (LIFO) or FIFO accounting method. However, you must have a new committee bank account for the reelection campaign.