Getting Well After the Election

By: Dave Mason
Sr. VP, Compliance Services 

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Post-election Contribution Rules vary by state

Elections don’t always turn out as expected. When the unexpected happens, our PAC clients sometimes want to get back on the winning side by making post-election contributions. Whether such contributions count against limits for the election that just occurred, or for the next contest two years or more hence, depends on a mix of governing law and the candidate’s financial status.

The Federal Election Commission recently posted a timely reminder that post-election contributions to federal candidates count against the pre-election giving limit only if the recipient committee has “net debts outstanding”. The net debt calculation can be complicated, and contributors are not in a position to know exactly when all debts are satisfied, so PACs making federal post-election contributions have to rely on candidate committees for debt information. If candidate committees collect more in debt retirement contributions than they have in debt, they are required to make refunds or ask that contributions be redesigned for their next election.

Many states also allow post-election contributions to count against pre-election limits. In some cases rules are not predicated on debt calculations, but each state has differing rules.

Several states, for instance, allow contributions through December 31 to count against the limit for the November general election. Maryland and Illinois follow this rule.

Other states have rules similar to the federal process, limiting debt retirement contributions to the amount of debt left from the prior election.  Arkansas, Michigan, and Missouri are among the states in this category.

South Carolina has an unusually complex set of rules: contributions up to seven days after a primary or runoff count against the limits for the primary or runoff; contributions for an entire quarter after the general election count against the prior general election limit. In addition, if a committee has debts after these periods, contributions are also allowed to retire those debts.

Daunted or confused? Don’t worry: just contact your Aristotle Political Compliance Manager and we’ll help you navigate the maze of state laws and debt calculation rules.


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