Campaign Finance Electronic Filing
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Who is required to file electronically?
2. Which software should I use? Downloaded version or online?
3. Is the TX-CFS software for Windows computers only?
4. Do I have to install software on my computer to file electronically?
5. Will the software run on any computer?
6. How do I obtain the electronic filing software?
7. Why am I being forced to update the software to the latest version before my report can be filed?
8. How do I update the software to the latest version?
9. How do I obtain a password to file electronically?
10. What do I do if I forget my password?
11. Can I change the password assigned by the Ethics Commission?
12. Can I import information from a spreadsheet into the Ethics Commission software?
13. If I enter information into a spreadsheet, do I need to include a unique ID for each contribution and expenditure?
14. How do I sign a report that is filed electronically?
15. How do I send an electronic report to the Ethics Commission?
16. How will I know if the Ethics Commission received a filing?
17. What kind of assistance is available?
18. Can I use the software to create a paper report?
19. Are reports available on the internet?
20. Are reports searchable on the internet?
21. What information is available for review at the Ethics Commission's office?
22. Will the Ethics Commission make paper copies of electronically filed reports available?
23. May someone who files with a local filing authority file electronically?
Most individuals or entities filing a campaign finance report WITH THE TEXAS ETHICS COMMISSION are required to file reports electronically unless the individual or entity is eligible to claim a statutory exemption.
If you DO NOT FILE reports with the Texas Ethics Commission, the requirement to file electronically explained on this website does not apply to you. However, your local filing authority may have such a requirement.
EXEMPTION: A filer may claim an exemption from electronic filing only if the filer does not use a computer to keep current records of contributions, expenditures, or donors AND if the filer has not accepted more than $20,000 in political contributions or made more than $20,000 in political expenditures in a calendar year.
The law continues to exempt the following from the electronic filing requirement. In these cases, an affidavit need not be filed to claim the exemption.
Certain individuals who make direct campaign expenditures under Section 253.062, Election Code.
Certain candidates for political subdivisions located in more than one county if the governing body has not yet been formed, and specific-purpose committees supporting or opposing only those candidates.
Specific-purpose committees supporting or opposing a measure if the measure concerns a political subdivision located in more than one county if the governing body has not yet been formed.
- Candidates for state party chair.
The online version, Webfiler, is ideal for smaller reports of fifty transactions or less, for network firewall configurations where two way handshakes are not allowed, or if you have something other than a Windows operating system. If Webfiler is used for larger reports, it is possible that data can be lost if you log out before filing or if your Internet connection is broken and you have not saved the data onto your computer. Note: Webfiler does not work on Apple's Safari web browser version 3.1.2 or higher. Instead, you must use a different browser, such as Firefox, Google Chrome, or Internet Explorer.
If you have access to a windows computer, running the downloaded software, TX-CFS, will automatically save data to your computer and has some features not present in Webfiler. However, it is somewhat more difficult to learn and it is still possible that data can be lost if your computer’s hard drive "crashes" and you have not made a backup copy of the TX-CFS software data, tecdbf.mdb.
If you are a “local filer”, only the TX-CFS downloadable software is available for your use.
Yes. The TX-CFS software will only run on the Windows operating system,The TX-CFS software is available only for computers with Windows operating systems, including Windows XP (with service pack 3), Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8. Users of Macintosh and other computers should utilize the On-line Web Filing Application or call our office for assistance in filing reports electronically.
No. You may use the On-line Web Filing Application to file a report and save it to your computer if you are unable to use our software. The On-line Web Filing Application should be used if you have very little information to report. You must obtain a filing PASSWORD to file electronically.
The software requires Windows XP Service Pack 3, Windows Vista, or Windows 7 Operating System. The On-line Web Filing Application can be used from almost any computer with a web browser, including Macintosh and Linux computers.
The latest version of the electronic filing software can be downloaded from the Texas Ethics Commission website at http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/whatsnew/elf_filing_info.htm. If you do not wish to download the software, the Ethics Commission can provide the software on CD. Also, you may use software provided by a third-party vendor. Software provided by a third-party vendor must be in a specific format and must include software that allows you to file the report with the Ethics Commission.
Individuals and entities who are statutorily required to report campaign finance activities with the State of Texas must be in compliance with current campaign finance reporting legislation. Older versions of the software may not be in compliance with current reporting legislation. In addition, enhancements are periodically incorporated to enable the software to run on newer Windows operating systems, correct underlying code problems, and improve the filing process.
The campaign finance software (version 3.3.5 or higher) will automatically deliver updates to you when you open the software and are connected to the internet. The software prompts you to download the latest version from the Ethics Commission website if a more recent version is found. You may also click on the TOOLS menu and then select UPDATE SOFTWARE.
In order to obtain a password, a candidate, officeholder, or campaign treasurer of a political committee must submit Form PASS (Request for Electronic Filing Password) to the Ethics Commission by mail, hand-delivery, or facsimile. If you fax Form PASS, please follow-up by sending the original form with your signature. The Ethics Commission will generate a filing password and send it to you. If you need to obtain your password right away, please follow the steps in the next question.
Form PASS allowed you to provide a security question and answer to the Ethics Commission along with an electronic password. If you provided all of the previously named information to the Ethics Commission and can remember their values, you can have your password automatically reset to a new value by visiting our website. The new password will be emailed to you. Please visit our website at http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/password/ResetPassword.html if you would like us to automatically send a new password to your email address.
If you do not know the above information or did not provide us with the the information, please call our office at 512-463-5800 during the hours of 8-5. At the bottom of Form PASS, you may also authorize the Ethics Commission to release your password to a specific person, provided that person can answer the security question.
Yes. You can change your password by visiting the Ethics Commission's website at http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/password/ChangePassword.html. You are required to know your account number, your filer type, and your current password before you are allowed to change your password.
You can transfer contribution and expenditure information from spreadsheet software such as Excel, Access, or Lotus by first exporting the information into a file that is in a comma separated value (CSV) file format and then importing the file into the Ethics Commission software. You will have to enter "cover sheet" information such as filer name and address, report type, and period covered into the software. The Import/Export Guide is found online at http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/whatsnew/ImportGuide.pdf.
No. The Ethics Commission electronic filing software automatically creates a unique ID for each contribution and expenditure. Filers who import contribution and expenditure information into the Ethics Commission software do not need to provide unique IDs. Software provided by third-party vendors must provide a unique ID for each contribution and expenditure.
You must enter your name on the Affidavit signature line when prompted by the software and then click "File Report."
You may file a report created by the software by using the internet to transmit the report or by filing a report to a CD and delivering it to the Ethics Commission.
If you selected "File Report Online" before entering your password, a confirmation number should appear in a pop-up window; e.g. TX-123456. We suggest you write down the confirmation number for your records. You should also enter your email address on the same screen as the password. If the filing was successful, you should receive an email within 15 minutes from "Oracle Database Owner," which also contains the confirmation number. If you don't see a confirmation number, the filing did not succeed. You should try again or call TEC for assistance.
If you selected "File Report on CD" rather than "File Report Online," you will not see a confirmation number and you will not be able to enter your email address. For this reason, we do not recommend filing to CD unless you are unable to file online. Note: If you are filing on a CD, do not select the CD drive directly. Instead, select the C: drive and use "My Computer" or "Windows Explorer" to copy and write the file onto the CD. After filing to CD, the name of the file will be displayed; e.g. C:\COH000495248.xml.asc (or C:\COH00049524.pdp.asc if you are using older software). You should write down the file name, then click on CLOSE, and then click on EXIT PROGRAM. Use "My Computer" or "Windows Explorer" to verify that the file is on the CD before mailing it to the Ethics Commission.
Most of the screens in the Ethics Commission software include a "help" button. The "help" buttons open text files that explain how to use the software to create reports.
The Ethics Commission's staff is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central Time to assist Ethics Commission filers with electronic filing. For technical assistance, please call (512) 463-5800.
Questions about third-party software should be directed to the third-party software vendor.
Yes. The software will allow filers to create paper reports for their records.
Yes, campaign finance reports filed electronically are available on the internet without the contributor address information. The Ethics Commission is required to remove contributor address information (other than city, state, and zip code) before making an electronically filed report available on the Internet or on a CD. Contributor address information will be available on paper copies of reports upon request.
Reports that are filed electronically are searchable on the internet. Further information on viewing and searching electronically filed campaign finance reports can be found at http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/whatsnew/srchinfo.html.
Paper copies of reports that are not filed electronically are available at the Ethics Commission's office. Members of the public may view the reports at no charge or may make copies of the reports for a fee.
Also, members of the public may use computer terminals in the Ethics Commission's office to view electronically filed reports and to search the database that is on the Ethics Commission's website.
Yes. Members of the public may request paper copies of electronically filed campaign finance reports. To request copies of reports, please call (512) 463-5800. There is a fee for copies.
Local filers may file electronically if your local authority has an electronic filing system for campaign finance reports. Check with your local authority to find out if electronic filing is an option. At this time, most local authorities do not offer electronic filing. There are, however, a few local filing authorities that offer, and in some instances even require, electronic filing.