2015 and 2016 Campaign Finance Enactments

7/21/2016

Overview

In the biennium, 2015 -2016, many states made administrative and procedural changes to their campaign finance laws.

Fiscal dollar signOne of the hottest topics during this time was financial disclosure of contributions. A number of states implemented new reporting requirements for non-candidate committees that had previously been exempt from disclosing their financial sources, such as ballot initiative committees. In addition, several states either authorized new online reporting systems or required committees to report their financial information online instead of on paper.

These highlights are followed by more detailed information about key election-related enactments:

  • Arizona, Hawaii, and Idaho created new disclosure requirements for independent expenditures.
  • Arkansas, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and West Virginia each either established new online campaign finance reporting systems or now require online reporting.
  • Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Oregon established task forces to study the campaign finance laws in their states.
  • Maine, Maryland, and South Dakota changed their reporting requirements for ballot initiative committees.
  • California, Illinois, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Virginia each enacted legislation changing their reporting deadlines for periodic reports or major contributions.

Information on all 2015 -2016 campaign finance legislation can be found in NCSL’s Database of Campaign Finance LegislationIf you would like assistance in using this database please contact NCSL’s elections team or call us at 303-364-7700.

2016 Key Election-Related Enactments

Administration

Colorado required administrative law judges who hear campaign finance complaints to take four hours of continuing legal education annually (S 106).

Connecticut established a pilot program to assist town clerks with campaign finance filings (H 674).

Connecticut also established a task force on candidate committees and the obligations imposed on committee treasurers (H 6900).

New Hampshire established a committee to study public access to campaign information (NH S 92; NH H 304).

Oregon set up a task force on campaign finance reform (H 2178).

South Carolina made modifications to their state ethics commission authorizing it to levy enforcement and administrative fees (H 3184).

Tennessee renewed their bureau of ethics and campaign finance for five years (S 1509).

New Classifications

Arizona stipulated that 501(c)(3) organizations do not have to register as political committees (H 2296).

Colorado defined a small scale issue committee as on that does not accept or receive contributions or expenditures exceeding $5,000 (S 186).

Maine clarified that laws governing political action committees do not apply to individuals and required ballot commission committees to register with the Commission on Governmental Ethics. (H 1033).

Maryland modified their campaign finance rules to apply to ballot initiative campaigns (S 459; H 963).

South Dakota altered the reporting requirements for ballot initiative committees and added the requirement that the committee must file a termination report after the election (H 1036).

South Dakota also provided that counties and municipalities can pass ordinances to apply statewide campaign finance law to local races (H 1099).

Utah expanded the definition of groups that do not qualify as a political issues committee (H 95).

Contribution Limits 

Arizona placed limitations on contributions from corporations and labor unions, and also modified its reporting deadlines (S 1516).

South Carolina passed a law distinguishing between contribution limits for the primary and the primary runoff (H 3193).

Utah set the anonymous contribution limit at $50 (H 290).

Wisconsin doubled the contribution limits for state and local offices, permitted unlimited contributions to certain non-candidate committees, and also prohibited corporations and unions from making contributions to entities other than independent expenditure and referendum committees (A 387).

Crimes and Elections

Maryland imposed a $1,000 civil penalty for illegal contributions and also required that those contributions must be returned (H 241; S 408).

Disclosure

Arizona required the disclosure of some of the largest contributors for independent expenditures on campaign materials and advertisements (H 2297).

California required nonprofits who give elected officials travel gifts to disclose the names of the donors who funded the travel (S 21).

California also clarified that payments made primarily for legislative or governmental purposes do not need to be reported (A 1544).

Hawaii required the disclosure of funding sources for independent expenditures of more than $10,000 in the aggregate and more than $5,000 for late contributions (H 1491).

Idaho required that the source of funding for independent expenditure advertisements must be disclosed on those advertisements (H 542).

Nebraska amended its financial disclosure deadlines and added the requirement that candidates must disclose their financial interests (L 400).

Utah created a grace period for candidates who fail to provide a financial report, and prevented political parties from replacing candidates who are disqualified for failure to provide a financial report (H 48).

Wisconsin required certain entities—such as independent expenditure committees, referendum committees and recall committees—to register with the Government Accountability Board or a local filing officer before accepting contributions or making expenditures, and also subjected these entities to periodic reporting requirements (A 387).

Online Reports

Arkansas approved a $750,000 appropriation for an online campaign finance reporting system (H 1138).

New Hampshire created an electronic system for reports of receipts and expenditures by candidates and candidate committees (S 456).

New Mexico required electronic filing of campaign finance reports (H 105).

West Virginia required electronic filing of financial disclosures (H 2588).

Reporting Procedures

California eliminated supplemental pre-election and supplemental independent expenditure reporting requirements, and required contributions or expenditures of $1,000 or more on Election Day to be reported within 24 hours (A 594).

Illinois amended the election code to require that independent expenditures of $5,000 or more be reported within five business days, or two business days if within 60 days of the election (S 248).

Kentucky eliminated its duplicate paper filing requirement (S 169).

Louisiana removed the requirement of an affidavit for personal financial disclosures, instead requiring a certification (H 144).

Maryland stipulated that campaign finance must be conducted through a candidate committee or other campaign finance entity rather than individually, compensation to officers of the entity can only be made by check, and the campaign treasurer must include a bank statement within 30 days of the reports in addition to filing the report (H 112).

Missouri required that candidate committee funds must be invested in short-term accounts and readily available (H 2203).

New Hampshire moved up the deadline for filing itemized statements (S 458).

Virginia extended the deadline for reporting large pre-election contributions (H 1387).

One of a Kind Legislation

Louisiana amended the definition of motor vehicles so that trailers can be purchased with campaign funds (H 898).

New Hampshire required the governor-elect to report contributions and expenditures related to the inauguration (S 237).

Additional Resources