PDF Version
     TEXAS ETHICS COMMISSION

Guide to a Local Filing Authority’s Duties
Under the Campaign Finance Law

Revised September 28, 2011

This guide is intended for campaign finance filing authorities in cities, school districts, and other political subdivisions other than counties.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Part I. The Role of the Filing Authority

What Is Title 15 About?

What Are My Responsibilities Under the Campaign Finance Law?

Who Files With Me?

What Forms Do I Need to Make Available?

Why Is It So Important to Provide the Instructions With the Forms?

Is There Other Information I Can Make Available to Filers?

How Do I Know the Filing Deadlines?

Why Should I Date-Stamp Filings and Save Postmarks?

May Filers Use Computer Programs to Create Reports?

Part II. Candidates

What Makes Someone a Candidate?

How Does a Candidate Appoint a Campaign Treasurer?

When Does a Candidate Have to File Reports?

When May a Candidate Stop Filing Title 15 Reports?

Part III. Officeholders

What Does Title 15 Have to Do With Officeholders?

When Does an Officeholder Have to File Reports?

Part IV. Specific-Purpose Political Committees

What Is a Political Committee?

What Is a Specific-Purpose Political Committee?

What Political Committees File With Political Subdivisions?

When Must a Political Committee File a Campaign Treasurer Appointment?

What Are the Responsibilities of a Committee’s Campaign Treasurer?

How Does a Committee Change Treasurer?

What If a Specific-Purpose Committee Becomes a General-Purpose Committee?

When Does the Treasurer of a Specific-Purpose Committee Have to File Reports?

Part V. Penalties

Part VI. Frequent Questions

Endnotes


Guide to a Local Filing Authority’s Duties
under the Campaign Finance Law

This guide explains the responsibilities of local filing authorities (other than county filing authorities) under the Texas campaign finance law, which is set out in title 15 of the Election Code. The Texas Ethics Commission is responsible for interpreting title 15. Under title 15, the campaign finance filing authority for a political subdivision other than a county is the clerk or secretary of the political subdivision’s governing body. If the political subdivision does not have a clerk or secretary, the filing authority is the presiding officer of the political subdivision’s governing body. You may direct questions about title 15 to the Ethics Commission at (512) 463-5800. You should direct other questions about election law to the Secretary of State at (512) 463-5650 or (800) 252-8683.

Local filing authorities are not expected to be title 15 experts. The Ethics Commission has prepared two filing guides for local filing authorities to distribute to filers: a Campaign Finance Guide for Local Candidates and Officeholders who File With Local Filing Authorities and a Campaign Finance Guide for Political Committees. For questions not answered in those guides or in the instructions to forms, filers should call the Ethics Commission. (If you are an elected officeholder, you need to understand your obligations as a filer in addition to your obligations as a filing authority.)


Part I. the Role of the Filing Authority

What Is Title 15 About?

The campaign finance law, title 15 of the Election Code, regulates the acceptance of, expenditure of, and reports regarding money in political campaigns by candidates, officeholders, and political committees. There are civil and criminal penalties for violations of title 15. Title 15 has nothing to do with ballot access. A violation of title 15 will not keep a person off the ballot nor will it invalidate an election.

What Are My Responsibilities Under the Campaign Finance Law?

Forms: You may print the various forms listed in this guide and the accompanying instructions from the Ethics Commission’s website at http://www.ethics.state.tx.us on the Internet.

You are responsible for copying forms and making them available to filers. You may not charge filers for forms.

Filings: You are responsible for accepting documents that candidates, officeholders, and political committees file under title 15. Always remember to date-stamp a filing and to save postmarks and receipt marks on envelopes.

Code of Fair Campaign Practices: Under Chapter 258 of the Election Code, which is known as the Fair Campaign Practices Act, you must provide the following documents to each candidate or political committee that files a campaign treasurer appointment with you: (1) a copy of the Fair Campaign Practices Act and (2) a form on which the candidate or treasurer of the committee may subscribe to the Code of Fair Campaign Practices (Form CFCP). The Ethics Commission makes these documents available. See http://www.ethics.state.tx.us on the Internet. A candidate or committee treasurer may complete Form CFCP and file it with you.

No Filing Fees: Section 251.003 of the Election Code states that you may not charge a filing fee for filings required by title 15.

Notices: You are not required to send filers notices to file.

Penalties: You have no responsibility for making sure that candidates, officeholders, or political committees file the required documents; nor do you have authority to penalize a filer for failure to submit a required filing. Filers should be aware, however, that there are penalties for violating title 15. See "Part V. Penalties" in this guide.

Public Access: Forms filed under title 15 are public records and must be made available for public inspection during regular business hours.

School Districts with a Student Enrollment of More Than 15,000 and Located Wholly or Partly in a Municipality with a Population of More Than 500,000.  Beginning with campaign finance reports required to be filed on or after January 1, 2012, a school district that meets this enrollment and population criteria is required to post on the school district’s Internet website the reports filed by school board trustees, candidates for school board trustee, and specific-purpose committees that support, oppose, or assist a candidate for or member of the board of trustees in a school district.  A report must be posted on the school district’s website not later than the fifth business day after the date the report is filed.  Elec. Code § 254.04011.

Retention: You must keep a campaign treasurer appointment for two years after the campaign treasurer appointment is terminated. Also, if a candidate or committee treasurer files a form subscribing to the Code of Fair Campaign Practices, you must keep the form for the same period for which you keep the candidate’s or committee treasurer’s campaign treasurer appointment. You must keep other title 15 records for at least two years after filing. If a criminal investigation or proceeding is pending in regard to the election to which title 15 records pertain, you must keep the records until the investigation or proceeding is over. The Texas State Library and Archives Commission can provide general information about records retention and destruction. You may write the Library and Archives Commission at P.O. Box 12927, Austin, Texas, 78711-2927. You may call the commission at (512) 463-5460.

Questions from Filers: You are not expected to be a title 15 expert. Filers will find answers to most of their questions either in the instructions to the forms or in the applicable Ethics Commission campaign finance guide. For further information filers may call the Ethics Commission.

Who Files With Me?

The following individuals and committees file with the filing authority for a political subdivision:

1. Candidates for and officeholders of elective offices of the political subdivision;

2. Specific-purpose committees supporting or opposing candidates for and officeholders of elective offices of the political subdivision; and

3. Specific-purpose committees supporting or opposing a measure to be submitted at an election ordered by an authority of the political subdivision. See "Part IV. Specific-Purpose Political Committees" in this guide.

NOTE: A specific-purpose committee that would be required to file with more than one local filing authority may instead file with the Ethics Commission.

What Forms Do I Need To Make Available?

For most forms, there is a separate instruction guide. Remember: always make the appropriate instruction guide available with a form!

1. Form CTA and Form CTA Instruction Guide (Appointment of a Campaign Treasurer by a Candidate)

A person who takes action to gain nomination or election to a public office must file Form CTA. Before a candidate may raise or spend money for his or her candidacy, the candidate must appoint a campaign treasurer by filing Form CTA with the appropriate filing authority. For example, a candidate must file a campaign treasurer appointment before paying a filing fee.

2. Form ACTA and Form ACTA Instruction Guide (Amendment: Appointment of a Campaign Treasurer by a Candidate)

A candidate uses Form ACTA to show changes in information provided on Form CTA.

3. Form C/OH and Form C/OH Instruction Guide (Candidate/Officeholder Campaign Finance Report)

Candidates and officeholders use Form C/OH to file periodic reports of contributions and expenditures. A person who is both a candidate and an officeholder reports all activity on the same Form C/OH.

4. Form C/OH-FR and Form C/OH Instruction Guide (Candidate/Officeholder Report: Designation of Final Report)

A candidate uses Form C/OH-FR to file a final report when he or she does not intend to accept further campaign contributions or make further campaign expenditures. The Ethics Commission makes Form C/OH-FR available as the last page of Form C/OH; thus the instructions for this form are included in the Form C/OH Instruction Guide.

5. Form C/OH-UC and Form C/OH-UC Instruction Guide (Candidate/Officeholder Report of Unexpended Contributions)

Former candidates and officeholders use this form to report the disposition of unexpended contributions.

6. Form STA and Form STA Instruction Guide (Appointment of a Campaign Treasurer by a Specific-Purpose Political Committee)

A specific-purpose political committee uses Form STA to appoint a campaign treasurer. Before a political committee may accept more than $500 in political contributions or spend more than $500 in political expenditures, the committee must appoint a campaign treasurer.

7. Form ASTA and Form ASTA Instruction Guide (Amendment: Appointment of a Campaign Treasurer by a Specific-Purpose Political Committee)

A specific-purpose political committee uses this form to show changes in information provided on a campaign treasurer appointment.

8. Form SPAC and Form SPAC Instruction Guide (Specific-Purpose Political Committee Campaign Finance Report)

The treasurer of a specific-purpose political committee uses this form to file periodic reports of contributions and expenditures.

9. Form PAC-DR and Form SPAC Instruction Guide (Specific-Purpose Political Committee Report: Affidavit of Dissolution)

The treasurer of a political committee files Form PAC-DR, along with a Form SPAC designated as a dissolution report, to dissolve the committee. The Ethics Commission makes Form PAC-DR available as the last page of Form SPAC; thus the instructions for Form PAC-DR are included in the Form SPAC Instruction Guide.

10. Form CFCP and copy of the Fair Campaign Practices Act

You must provide a copy of Form CFCP and a copy of the Fair Campaign Practices Act (Election Code Ch. 258) to each candidate or political committee that files a campaign treasurer appointment with you.

11. Form PFS (Personal Financial Disclosure Statement)

Beginning in 2005, certain local officials will be required to file personal financial disclosure statements with local filing authorities. See Local Gov’t. Code Chs. 145, 335; Educ. Code § 11.064; Water Code Ch. 60, Subch. O.

Why Is It So Important To Provide The Instructions With The Forms?

The forms consist mainly of blank spaces. The instructions explain the reporting requirements in detail.

Is There Other Information I Can Make Available To Filers?

The Ethics Commission makes the following guides available for filing authorities to provide to filers.

  1. Campaign Finance Guide for Candidates and Officeholders Who File With Local Filing Authorities.

  2. Campaign Finance Guide for Political Committees.

  3. Campaign Finance Guide for Judicial Candidates and Officeholders.

  4. Schedules of Filing Dates.

  5. A Guide to Political Advertising: What You Need To Know.

  6. A Guide To The Prohibition Against Using Political Subdivision Resources for Political Advertising.

How Do I Know The Filing Deadlines?

Title 15 of the Election Code prescribes the filing deadlines for candidates, officeholders, and treasurers of political committees. Filing schedules are also posted on the Ethics Commission’s website at http://www.ethics.state.tx.us> on the Internet. The filing schedules set out the filing deadlines for semiannual reports and pre-election reports for elections held on uniform election dates. Some elections ordered by a political subdivision may be held on dates other than uniform election dates. The Ethics Commission cannot know in advance the dates of all possible elections called by political subdivisions. If an election arises that is not covered on the schedule, please call the Ethics Commission for assistance in calculating the due dates for pre-election reports.

Deadline on Weekend or Holiday. If the due date for a report falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the report is due on the next regular business day.

5 p.m. Deadline. The deadline for filing a report is 5 p.m. on the due date.

Delivery by Mail or Other Carrier. For most reporting deadlines, a document is filed on time if it is properly addressed with postage or handling charges prepaid and bears a postmark or receipt mark of a common or contract carrier indicating a time by the deadline.

Pre-Election Reports.  A report due 30 days before an election and a report due 8 days before an election must be received by the appropriate filing authority no later than the report due date to be considered filed on time.

Why Should I Date-Stamp Filings and Save Postmarks?

Reports are due by certain deadlines, and members of the public or a prosecutor may be interested in knowing whether a particular report was filed on time. A file stamp will show whether a hand-delivery was on time. For other filings, a postmark or receipt mark will show whether the filings were timely.

May Filers Use Computer Programs to Create Reports?

The Ethics Commission makes available computer software for candidates and committee treasurers to use in generating reports required under title 15. Local filers may use the software to generate a report on paper, but must add the affidavit required to be used on reports filed on paper and must sign the affidavit. Local filers who have questions about the software should call the Ethics Commission directly.


Part II. Candidates

What Makes Someone A Candidate?

Any action a person takes to seek nomination or election to public office makes the person a candidate for title 15 filing purposes. A candidate must file a campaign treasurer appointment even if the candidate does not intend to accept campaign contributions or make campaign expenditures. Once a person has filed a campaign treasurer appointment, he or she must file periodic reports of contributions and expenditures as a candidate. The obligation to file reports as a candidate lasts until the person files a final report.

Additionally, a person may not accept a campaign contribution or make a campaign expenditure (even from personal funds) without a campaign treasurer appointment on file.

How Does A Candidate Appoint A Campaign Treasurer?

To appoint a campaign treasurer, a candidate files Form CTA with the appropriate filing authority.

Qualifications of Campaign Treasurer. A candidate may appoint himself, a relative, a friend, or anyone else as campaign treasurer. Under a law that took effect on September 1, 2003, a person is ineligible for appointment as a campaign treasurer if the person is the campaign treasurer of a political committee and has outstanding filing obligations.

Duties of a Candidate’s Campaign Treasurer. A candidate’s campaign treasurer has no official duties. The candidate, not the campaign treasurer, is required to sign reports. (The treasurer of a political committee is required to file reports for the committee.)

Effective Date of Appointment. If delivered by hand, a campaign treasurer appointment takes effect on the date of delivery. If delivered by mail or common carrier, a campaign treasurer appointment takes effect on the date of the postmark or receipt mark.

Transferring a Campaign Treasurer Appointment. A person who has a campaign treasurer appointment on file with you may wish to begin raising or spending money in connection with a campaign for an office that requires filing with a different filing authority. In that case, the candidate transfers his or her campaign treasurer appointment by filing a new Form CTA with the new filing authority. The candidate must also attach a certified copy of the old campaign treasurer appointment. This procedure can affect you in two ways: (1) You may receive a Form CTA with a certified copy of an old campaign treasurer appointment attached, or (2) you may be asked to provide a certified copy of a campaign treasurer appointment on file with you.

Candidate who Files a Campaign Treasurer Appointment with a New Filing Authority. A candidate who has been filing with you may file a campaign treasurer appointment with a different filing authority. The candidate will need to file a certified copy of his or her political subdivision campaign treasurer appointment with the new filing authority. This ends the person’s obligation to file with you even if he or she continues to hold an office of your political subdivision.

Example: Jane Doe, a city council member with a campaign treasurer appointment on file with the city secretary, decides to run for the state legislature. She files a campaign treasurer appointment with the Ethics Commission along with a certified copy of her city campaign treasurer appointment. She is no longer required to file title 15 reports with the city secretary. Nonetheless, she may wish to file duplicate copies of reports with the city secretary as long as she holds a city office.

Termination of a Campaign Treasurer Appointment. It is important for you to know the termination date of a campaign treasurer appointment because you must keep a campaign treasurer appointment for two years after it is terminated. A campaign treasurer appointment may be terminated in three different ways: (1) the candidate files a final report; (2) the candidate appoints a new campaign treasurer; or (3) the campaign treasurer or the candidate notifies you that the appointment is terminated.

When Does A Candidate Have To File Reports?

Officeholder Who Files A Campaign Treasurer Appointment. An officeholder who files a campaign treasurer appointment and who did not already have a campaign treasurer appointment on file must file a report no later than 15 days after filing the campaign treasurer appointment. This requirement does not apply when an officeholder simply changes campaign treasurers. After filing a campaign treasurer appointment and the "15-day" report, the candidate/officeholder files according to the filing schedule for candidates.

Exception. The "15-day" reporting requirement does not apply if the candidate/officeholder had no more than $500 in contributions or expenditures during the period covered by the report.

Semiannual Reports. A candidate is required to file semiannual reports on January 15 and July 15 of each year on Form C/OH. A person who is both a candidate and an officeholder (that is, an officeholder who has a campaign treasurer appointment on file) is not required to file two separate reports. Nor is a person required to distinguish between candidate activity and officeholder activity on the report.

No Exception. A person who has a campaign treasurer appointment on file must file semiannual reports, even for reporting periods during which there is no reportable activity and even if the person chose modified reporting.1

Pre-election Reports. An opposed candidate in an upcoming election must file pre-election reports. Pre-election reports are due 30 days and 8 days before an election.2 A pre-election report must be received by the appropriate filing authority no later than the report due date.

An "opposed candidate" is a candidate who has an opponent whose name is printed on the ballot. Pre-election reports are not required if a candidate’s only opposition is a write-in candidate.3

Modified Reporting. An opposed candidate who selects "modified reporting" is not required to file pre-election reports (or runoff reports). (The selection of modified reporting does not affect a candidate’s obligation to file semiannual reports.) A candidate is eligible to select modified reporting if he or she does not intend to exceed $500 in contributions or expenditures in connection with an election. (A candidate has separate $500 thresholds for a primary, a runoff, and a general election.) A candidate selects modified reporting by signing the appropriate blank on Form CTA or Form ACTA.

A "modified filer" who exceeds one of the $500 thresholds in connection with an election is subject to the regular filing requirements for opposed candidates. If a modified filer exceeds one of the thresholds before the due date for the "30-day" pre-election report, the filer is not required to give special notice; the filer is simply required to file the pre-election reports by the scheduled due dates. A modified filer who exceeds one of the thresholds after the due date for the "30-day" pre-election report must file a report within 48 hours of exceeding the threshold. If the candidate files the "48-hour" report before the due date for the "8-day" pre-election report, he or she must also file an "8-day" pre-election report by the regular due date for that report.

Many filers at the local level select modified reporting. To understand the rules that apply to modified filing, candidates should consult the Ethics Commission’s Campaign Finance Guide for Candidates and Officeholders Who File With Local Filing Authorities.

Runoff Reports. A candidate in a runoff must file a runoff report. A runoff report is due no later than the eighth day before the runoff election and must be received by the appropriate filing authority no later than the report due date.

Modified Reporting. A candidate who has selected modified reporting and who remains eligible for modified reporting is not required to file a runoff report. (The selection of modified reporting does not affect a candidate’s obligation to file semiannual reports.)

A candidate who has selected modified reporting has $500 thresholds in connection with the main election and new $500 thresholds in connection with a runoff.

Annual reports of Unexpended Contributions. A person who files a final report is no longer a candidate for title 15 purposes. If the person has surplus funds or assets (and is not an officeholder), he or she must file annual reports of unexpended contributions.

Annual reports are due not earlier than January 1 and not later than January 15 of each year on Form C/OH-UC. The obligation to file annual reports ends when the former candidate files a report of final disposition of unexpended contributions. Final disposition must be made within six years of filing a final report or leaving office, whichever is later.

Report of Final Disposition of Unexpended Contributions. After a former candidate disposes of all surplus funds and assets, he or she must file a report of final disposition of unexpended contributions, also on Form C/OH-UC. The former candidate may file this report at any time during the year.

When May A Candidate Stop Filing Title 15 Reports?

Filing a final report4 ends a person’s obligation to file title 15 reports unless (1) the filer has not yet filed past-due reports, (2) the person is an officeholder, or (3) the person has surplus funds at the time of filing a final report. An officeholder may be required to file title 15 reports as an officeholder. See "Part III. Officeholders. When Does An Officeholder Have To File Reports?" in this guide. A former candidate who is not an officeholder but who has surplus campaign funds must file annual reports of contributions and expenditures. See "Part II. Candidates. Annual Reports of Unexpended Contributions" above.


Part III. Officeholders

This section only applies to an officeholder who does not have a campaign treasurer appointment on file. Once an officeholder files a campaign treasurer appointment, he or she becomes a candidate for purposes of the title 15 filing requirements and must comply with the title 15 requirements applicable to candidates rather than the requirements applicable to officeholders. Note that only a person who has a campaign treasurer appointment on file may accept a campaign contribution or make a campaign expenditure (even from personal funds).5

What Does Title 15 Have To Do With Officeholders?

Although title 15 is commonly referred to as the campaign finance law, it also requires officeholders who are not candidates (in other words, who do not have a campaign treasurer appointment on file) to file reports of officeholder contributions and expenditures.

When Does An Officeholder Have To File Reports?

Semiannual Reports. An officeholder is required to file semiannual reports of officeholder contributions and expenditures on January 15 and July 15 of each year. For this report officeholders use Form C/OH.

Exception for Certain Local Officeholders. There is an exception to the requirement to file semiannual reports for a local officeholder (who does not have a campaign treasurer appointment on file) who did not exceed $500 in either contributions or expenditures during the reporting period. An officeholder who has a campaign treasurer appointment on file must file semiannual reports even if there is no reportable activity during the reporting period.

Report Required after Appointment of Campaign Treasurer. An officeholder who files an appointment of campaign treasurer (and who did not already have a campaign treasurer appointment on file) must file a report of contributions and expenditures no later than 15 days after filing the appointment, using Form C/OH. After filing the campaign treasurer appointment and the "15-day" report, the officeholder is subject to the filing requirements applicable to candidates.

Exception. The "15-day" reporting requirement does not apply if the candidate/officeholder had no more than $500 in contributions or expenditures during the period covered by the report.

Annual Report of Unexpended Contributions. A former officeholder who did not have a campaign treasurer appointment on file at the time of leaving office may be required to file annual reports of unexpended contributions. This requirement applies if the former officeholder retained surplus political funds or assets at the time of filing his or her last required report of contributions and expenditures. The former officeholder may not retain surplus political funds or assets for more than 6 years after leaving office.

Annual reports of unexpended contributions are due not earlier than January 1 and not later than January 15 of each year. The reports, on Form C/OH-UC, cover the preceding calendar year. A report is due regardless of whether there is any reportable activity. The obligation to file annual reports ends when the former officeholder files a report of final disposition of unexpended contributions.

Report of Final Disposition of Unexpended Contributions. Once a former officeholder disposes of surplus funds and assets, he or she must file a report of final disposition of unexpended contributions. A former officeholder may file this report at any time during the year. For this report former officeholders use Form C/OH-UC.

Officeholder who Files a Campaign Treasurer Appointment with a Different Filing Authority. An officeholder (who does not have a campaign treasurer appointment on file) may file a campaign treasurer appointment with a different filing authority. This ends the officeholder’s obligation to file with you even if he or she continues to hold an office of the political subdivision.


Part IV. Specific-Purpose Political Committees

What Is A Political Committee?

A political committee, commonly referred to as a "PAC," is any group that accepts political contributions or makes political expenditures. Although the term "PAC" may suggest a powerful "special interest" group, a political committee may also be a small group such as two people who get together to raise funds for an old friend who is a candidate for school board.

What Is A Specific-Purpose Political Committee?

There are two main types of political committees: general-purpose political committees and specific-purpose political committees. In essence, a general-purpose political committee exists to support or promote a particular political point-of-view or the interests of a certain group, whereas a specific-purpose committee exists to support or oppose specific candidates, officeholders, or ballot measures. It is the filer’s responsibility, not your responsibility, to determine whether a committee is a general-purpose committee or a specific-purpose committee. The Ethics Commission’s Campaign Finance Guide for Political Committees explains the differences in detail.

What Political Committees File With Political Subdivisions?

A specific-purpose committee files with the clerk, secretary, or presiding officer of a political subdivision other than a county if the committee supports or opposes either individual candidates or officeholders who file with the political subdivision or ballot measures on elections called by the political subdivision.6 All general-purpose political committees file with the Ethics Commission. It is the filer’s responsibility to determine where a political committee files campaign finance reports. The Ethics Commission’s Campaign Finance Guide for Political Committees will help filers make this determination.

When Must A Political Committee File A Campaign Treasurer Appointment?

$500 Thresholds. A specific-purpose committee must file a campaign treasurer appointment, on Form STA, before it exceeds $500 in either political contributions or political expenditures. Once the committee has filed a campaign treasurer appointment, the treasurer must file periodic reports of contributions and expenditures.

Effective Date. If delivered by hand, a committee’s campaign treasurer appointment takes effect on the day of delivery. If delivered by mail or common carrier, the appointment takes effect on the date of the postmark or receipt mark.

Termination of a Committee’s Campaign Treasurer Appointment. It is important for you to know the termination date of a committee’s campaign treasurer appointment because you must keep a campaign treasurer appointment for two years after it is terminated. A committee’s campaign treasurer appointment may be terminated by the committee in three different ways: (1) the committee files a dissolution report; (2) the committee appoints a new campaign treasurer; or (3) you receive notification from the committee or the campaign treasurer that the appointment is terminated.

What Are The Responsibilities Of A Committee’s Campaign Treasurer?

The treasurer of a political committee is responsible for filing the committee’s reports of contributions and expenditures. (In contrast, a candidate, not his or her campaign treasurer, is responsible for filing candidate and officeholder reports of contributions and expenditures.)

How Does a Committee Change Treasurer?

A specific-purpose committee changes treasurers by filing an amended appointment of campaign treasurer on Form ASTA. The new appointment terminates the old appointment. The outgoing treasurer is required to file a termination report on Form SPAC not later than 10 days after the termination. (A separate termination report is not required if the termination occurs on the last day of a reporting period and the proper report for that period is filed.)

What If A Specific-Purpose Committee Becomes A General-Purpose Committee?

A change in political activity may mean that a political committee that has been filing with a local filing authority has become a general-purpose committee. This change will require the committee to file a new campaign treasurer appointment with the Ethics Commission. In addition to filing a new campaign treasurer appointment with the Ethics Commission, the committee is required to give notice to the local filing authority of the change in status. The committee should review the Ethics Commission’s Campaign Finance Guide for Political Committees to become familiar with the contribution and expenditure limits that arise in connection with the transition.

When Does The Treasurer Of A Specific-Purpose Committee Have To File Reports?

Semiannual Reports. The treasurer of a specific-purpose committee is required to file semiannual reports by January 15 and July 15 of each year. The treasurer must file semiannual reports even if there is no reportable activity.

Pre-election Reports. A specific-purpose committee supporting or opposing an opposed candidate in an upcoming election must file pre-election reports. A specific-purpose committee supporting or opposing a ballot measure must also file pre-election reports. Filers use Form SPAC for pre-election reports, which are due 30 days and 8 days before an election.7 A pre-election report must be received by the appropriate filing authority no later than the report due date.

For purposes of filing pre-election reports, supporting or opposing a candidate or measure means accepting political contributions or making political expenditures to support or oppose the candidate or measure.

Modified Reporting. The treasurer of a specific-purpose committee that selects "modified reporting" is not required to file pre-election reports (or runoff reports). (The selection of modified reporting does not affect the treasurer’s obligation to file semiannual reports.) A committee may select modified reporting if the committee does not intend to exceed $500 in contributions or expenditures in connection with an election. (A committee has separate $500 thresholds for a primary, a runoff, and a general election.) A committee selects modified reporting by signing the appropriate blank on Form STA or Form ASTA.

A committee that has selected modified reporting must file pre-election reports if the committee exceeds one of the $500 thresholds. If the committee exceeds one of the thresholds before the due date for a "30-day" pre-election report, the committee is not required to give special notice of that fact; the treasurer is simply required to file the pre-election reports by the scheduled due dates. If the committee exceeds one of the thresholds after the due date for the "30-day" pre-election report, the treasurer must file a report within 48 hours of exceeding the threshold (on Form SPAC) and then file any pre-election or runoff reports that come due.

Runoff Reports. A specific-purpose committee that supports or opposes a candidate in a runoff election must file a runoff report on Form SPAC. A runoff report is due no later than the 8th day before the runoff and must be received by the appropriate filing authority no later than the report due date.

Modified Reporting. A specific-purpose committee that has selected modified reporting and remains eligible for modified reporting is not required to file a runoff report.

A committee that has selected modified reporting has $500 thresholds in connection with the main election and additional $500 thresholds in connection with a runoff.

Termination Report. After the treasurer of a political committee resigns or is replaced, the outgoing treasurer is required to file a termination report on Form SPAC not later than 10 days after the termination. (A separate termination report is not required if the termination occurs on the last day of a reporting period and the proper report for that period is filed.)

Dissolution Report. A political committee that expects to receive no further political contributions or make no further political expenditures may file a dissolution report on Form SPAC with Form PAC-DR attached.

The dissolution report terminates the committee’s campaign treasurer appointment and relieves the campaign treasurer of the duty to file additional reports. (In this case, the dissolution report serves as the treasurer’s termination report.)


Part V. Penalties

As a local filing authority, you have no authority to penalize filers in any way for violations of title 15. Any individual may file a criminal complaint regarding a violation of title 15 with the appropriate county or district attorney. Also, any citizen may file a sworn complaint with the Ethics Commission alleging a violation of title 15.


Part VI. Frequent Questions

If you have questions about your responsibilities as a filing authority, call the Ethics Commission. The following list contains questions that local filing authorities frequently ask.

Q. What title 15 documents should I give to a person who says he is interested in running for an office of my political subdivision?

A. In addition to information you provide about getting on the ballot, you should give the person a copy of the Ethics Commission’s Campaign Finance Guide for Candidates and Officeholders Who File With Local Filing Authorities, Form CTA and the Form CTA Instruction Guide.

Q. What should I give to a person who files a campaign treasurer appointment?

A. The person, who is now a candidate for purposes of title 15, will need Form C/OH and the Form C/OH Instruction Guide and a Filing Schedule. You are required to give the person a copy of the 1997 Fair Campaign Practices Act, Chapter 258 of the Election Code, and a copy of Form CFCP. You should also make sure that the person has a copy of the Ethics Commission’s Campaign Finance Guide for Candidates and Officeholders Who File With Local Filing Authorities.

Q. What should I give someone who is interested in forming a political committee?

A. A group that intends to accept political contributions or make political expenditures should get a copy of the Ethics Commission’s Campaign Finance Guide for Political Committees, Form STA and the Form STA Instruction Guide. The group should read the filing guide to determine whether it is a specific-purpose or general-purpose committee.

Q. What should I give to someone who files a campaign treasurer appointment for a political committee?

A. The treasurer of the political committee will need Form SPAC and the Form SPAC Instruction Guide. You are required to give the committee a copy of the 1997 Fair Campaign Practices Act, Chapter 258 of the Election Code, and a copy of Form CFCP. The treasurer should also have a copy of the Ethics Commission’s Campaign Finance Guide for Political Committees.

Q. What should I tell a write-in candidate who asks about title 15?

A. A person who declares himself or herself to be a write-in candidate must file a campaign treasurer appointment and reports of contributions and expenditures.

Q. What do I tell a candidate who says he isn’t going to file a campaign treasurer appointment because he is not going to accept campaign contributions?

A. All candidates must file a campaign treasurer appointment even if a candidate does not intend to accept campaign contributions or make campaign expenditures. Also, the fact that a candidate doesn’t accept campaign contributions does not mean that the candidate will have nothing to report. The candidate must report campaign expenditures from personal funds.

A candidate who does not plan to spend over $500 or accept more than $500 in total contributions in connection with an election should take the following steps:

  1. The candidate should complete Form CTA and sign the back for modified filing.

  2. If a July 15 or January 15 deadline occurs before the election, the candidate must file a report of contributions and expenditures, on Form C/OH.

  3. After the election, if the candidate does not intend to accept any further campaign contributions or make any further campaign expenditures (including payment of campaign debts), the candidate should file a report of contributions and expenditures on Form C/OH and mark it as a Final Report in Box 9, page 1. The candidate should also complete Form C/OH-FR and submit it along with Form C/OH. The final report terminates the candidate’s appointment of campaign treasurer and ends the person’s obligation to file as a candidate. (If the person won the election, he or she will be subject to the filing requirements applicable to officeholders.)

Q. May a candidate refuse to list the office or seat sought on a campaign treasurer appointment?

A. Yes. A person may decide to start raising money to run for office before the person decides which office to run for.

Q. What do I do if someone files a report after the filing deadline?

A. You should accept the filing.

Q. What do I do if someone files a corrected or amended filing?

A. You should accept the filing. A filer may also wish to file an Ethics Commission Affidavit of Good Faith with the amendment or correction. Filers should call the Ethics Commission if they have questions about corrected reports.

Q. What should I tell a candidate who asks about disclosures on political advertising?

A. Give the filer a copy of the Ethics Commission’s Guide to Political Advertising: What You Need to Know, and A Guide To the Prohibition Against Using Political Subdivision Resources for Political Advertising.

Q. May I enter into a contract to perform the title 15 functions of another entity?

A. No. An elections services contract may not change the authority with whom title 15 documents are filed.

Q. If a candidate forms a specific-purpose committee, must the candidate continue to file reports on Form C/OH?

A. Yes. The candidate and the committee are subject to separate reporting requirements.


ENDNOTES

1. See also Part III:  Officeholders (Certain officeholders who do not have campaign treasurer appointment on file are excepted from filing semiannual reports).

2. An opposed candidate in a runoff election is only required to file a pre-election report 8 days before a runoff election; there is no “30-day” pre-election report due before a runoff.

3. A write-in candidate must file a campaign treasurer appointment before accepting campaign contributions or making campaign expenditures.  Furthermore, a person who declares himself or herself to be a write-in candidate is required to file pre-election reports as long as the write-in candidate has an opponent whose name appears on the ballot.

4. A person terminates a campaign treasurer appointment by filing a final report on Form C/OH with Form C/OH-FR attached.

5. Once an officeholder files a campaign treasurer appointment, he or she may use contributions received as an officeholder to make campaign expenditures.

6. A specific-purpose political committee that supports candidates, officeholders, or measures at the political subdivision level may file with the Ethics Commission if it also supports candidates, officeholders, or measures in a jurisdiction other than the political subdivision.  For example, a specific-purpose committee that supports a particular candidate for county commissioner and a particular candidate for the city council of a city within the county has two choices of where to file campaign finance reports:  (1) The committee may file both with the county election official and with the appropriate city filing authority, or (2) the committee may file with the Ethics Commission only.

7. A political committee is only required to file a report 8 days before a runoff election; there is no “30-day” pre-election report required before a runoff.

 

Texas.gov | Texas Homeland Security | Statewide Search | Site Policies