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 Tips for Starting your Campaign

Whether you are planning for a campaign as a candidate, as an existing organization or as a group of citizens who want to support or oppose a candidate(s), making good decisions about handling finances is an important first step.  This page gives a basic list of important tips and decisions.  More detailed rules are explained in Campaign FAQs.

Tip 1: Do not accept any contributions before you file. 

  • A candidate must file a Precandidacy Form (PDF) or file for office before he/she can accept contributions or spend money.
  • A candidate must organize a committee and appoint a treasurer before doing any campaigning using a committee name.
  • A group of citizens must file a Statement of Organization (PDF) of a political committee before beginning activity.
  • The statement of organization of a committee must be filed at least 28 days before an election.

Tip 2: Decide who will handle the money and do the reporting.

  • Choose a person who is trustworthy, able to manage money, able to understand reporting, available to be involved from day to day, and able to meet deadlines.
  • The law requires that all contributions and expenditures must go through the treasurer or financial agent, so that person must be involved from beginning to end.
  • A candidate may serve as his or her own financial agent, but often the demands of a campaign make this unwise.

Tip 3: Prepare and file the Statement of Organization.

  • Choose the committee name carefully, once you have printed materials with the name it is expensive to make a change. 
  • Decide what address the committee & treasurer will use.  Information from the Secretary of State will be addressed to the treasurer's address.
  • Complete the appropriate form.
    Candidates: Use the Treasurer Designation for Candidate's Committee (PDF) form.
    Political Action Committees and Executive Committees: Use the Statement of Organization (PDF) form.
  • File with the proper office.
    With the Secretary of State for all statewide, legislative, judicial, and multi-county candidates and committees active in those elections.
    With the County Clerk for all single county offices.

Tip 4: Set up a checking account.

  • Never mix campaign funds with personal funds or parent organization funds.  It is best to establish a checking account in the name of the committee or campaign.  The bank usually requires a Social Security number or business tax number
  • For candidates - the candidate or treasurer's number is usually used.
  • For organizations - the parent organization's business tax ID is usually used.
  • For a candidate's campaign, the candidate contributions should be made to the campaign by check and deposited in the campaign checking account.
  • For a PAC, the first contributions should be used to set up the account, not other funds from the group.

Tip 5: Go over the rules with volunteers.

  • All volunteers and campaign staff need to understand the rules about campaign finance.  Although a volunteer might make a mistake, the treasurer is responsible for correcting it and is the person who would be charged with any violations of the law.
  • Understand what information you need from contributors for reporting.  This will save going back to contributors a second time to request more information.
  • Brief volunteers about the limits of reimbursements and other rules that will affect them personally.

Tip 6: Set up your records and keep them up-to-date.

  • Review contributions when they arrive and record them promptly.
  • Invoices must go to the treasurer. 
  • When a company requires payment up front - such as for advertising - find out what the cost will be and get the check from the treasurer.  If someone must pay from personal funds and get reimbursement, it is  very important to keep the paid invoice with the campaign records.
  • Review the campaign finance forms and prepare them as contributions are received and expenditures made.  This will make reporting much easier.

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