Ethics Commission
City and County of San Francisco

Public Financing Program

San Francisco’s partial public financing for candidates for Mayor or the Board of Supervisors helps defray the costs of election campaigns.  Under the program, candidates certified as eligible to receive public financing may receive up to the following amounts in public funds:  $975,000 (Non-Incumbent Mayoral Candidates), $962,500 (Incumbent Mayoral Candidates), $155,000 (Non-Incumbent Supervisorial Candidates) or $152,500 (Incumbent Supervisorial Candidates).

Among other things, to receive public funds, candidates must demonstrate that they have raised a certain amount of contributions from individuals who reside in San Francisco. For more information on the rules and requirements of the public financing program (including the rules discussed below), read the Supplement for Candidates for Mayor or the Supplement for Candidates for the Board of Supervisors.

Apply for public financing

Candidates interested in seeking public funds must electronically file the Statement of Participation or Non-Participation (SFEC Form 142a) no later than the deadline for filing nomination papers, indicating an intent to participate in the program.  Thereafter, candidates must electronically file a Qualifying Request for public funds, which includes a list of all qualifying contributions that can be matched with public funds.  Supporting documents must show that the contributions exist and that the contributors are individuals who are residents of San Francisco. Candidates certified as eligible to receive public funds may also electronically file a Matching Request(s) for additional public funds.

To qualify for public funding, a candidate for the Board of Supervisors must demonstrate that he or she has raised at least $10,000 in contribution amounts ranging from $10 to $100 from at least 100 San Francisco residents within 18 months prior to the election and no later than the 71st day before the election (an incumbent Supervisorial candidate must raise at least $15,000 in contributions from at least 150 San Francisco residents).

A candidate for Mayor must demonstrate that he or she has raised at least $50,000 in contribution amounts ranging from $10 to $100 from at least 500 San Francisco residents by the 70th day before the election (an incumbent Mayoral candidate must raise at least $75,000 in contributions from at least 750 San Francisco residents).

If certified as eligible to receive public funds, a candidate for the Board of Supervisors will receive an initial public funds grant of $20,000 and a candidate for Mayor will receive $100,000. Candidates may receive additional public funds based on the private contributions they raise. As shown in the table below, the maximum amount of public funds that a candidate for Board of Supervisors may receive is $155,000 for non-incumbent candidates and $152,500 for incumbent candidates.

Private Funds Raised by Non-Incumbents Matching Public Funds Private Funds Raised by Incumbents Matching Public Funds
Initial $10,000 $20,000 $15,000 $20,000
1:2 $50,000 $100,000 $50,000 $100,000
1:1 $35,000 $35,000 $32,500 $32,500
Total $95,000 $155,000 $97,500 $152,500
Total Public and Private Funds $250,000 $250,000

As shown in the table below, candidates for Mayor can receive up to $975,000 (non-incumbent candidates) or $962,500 (incumbent candidates).

Private Funds Raised by Non-Incumbents Matching Public Funds Private Funds Raised by Incumbents Matching Public Funds
Initial $50,000 $100,000 $75,000 $100,000
1:2 $425,000 $850,000 $425,000 $850,000
1:1 $25,000 $25,000 $12,500 $12,500
Total $500,000 $975,000 $512,500 $962,500
Total Public and Private Funds $1,475,000 $1,475,000

Any person who wishes to receive written notification from the Ethics Commission that the Commission has certified a candidate for Mayor or the Board of Supervisors as eligible to receive public funds should complete SFEC Form 152c. The Ethics Commission will also post on its website a listing of each candidate who has been certified to receive public funds, and their disbursements to date.

24-hour notification requirements

Candidates for the Board of Supervisors must electronically file the Threshold Form within 24 hours of receiving, spending or having $10,000 or more and candidates for Mayor must electronically file within 24 hours of receiving, spending or having $50,000 or more.  In a race where at least one candidate receives public funds, all candidates for that race must electronically file the Threshold Form within 24 hours of reaching the $100,000 threshold (Board of Supervisors races) or $1,000,000 threshold (Mayoral races). Thereafter, candidates must electronically file the Threshold Form within 24 hours of each time they spend or receive an additional $10,000 (supervisorial candidates) or an additional $50,000 (mayoral candidates).

Any person (including committees other than candidate committees) who makes independent expenditures, member communications or electioneering communications of $1,000 or more per candidate during the 90 days preceding an election must file a report with the Ethics Commission within 24 hours of each time the $1,000 threshold is reached.

Individual expenditure ceiling

Candidates who seek public funds must agree to limit their spending to the amount of their Individual Expenditure Ceiling (IEC). The IEC for supervisorial candidates starts at $250,000 and may be raised in increments of $10,000. The IEC for mayoral candidates starts at $1,475,000 and may be raised in increments of $100,000. The Ethics Commission may raise a candidate’s IEC to the sum of the highest level of Total Supportive Funds among that candidate’s opponents and the Total Opposition Spending against that candidate.

When the Ethics Commission raises a candidate’s IEC, the Commission notifies affected candidates and posts this information to its website.

Any candidate for Mayor or the Board of Supervisors seeking the same office as a candidate identified in a communication may object to the Executive Director’s determination of whether a communication reported on filings required under section 1.161, 1.162 or 1.163 actually supports or opposes a candidate or is neutral. Such requests must be filed within one business day from the date the Executive Director makes his or her determination.

Campaign Contingency Account

Candidates for City Elective office must establish one bank account for the committee (all contributions must be deposited into and all expenditures must be made from this bank account). This bank account is termed “Campaign Contribution Trust Account” (“CCTA”) and is the primary campaign bank account. The CCTA must be established at a bank located in San Francisco.

As explained above, a publicly funded candidate must abide by his or her IEC.  Furthermore, such candidate must also abide by his or her Trust Account Limit (“TAL”).  The TAL is the amount of funds in the CCTA such that the expenditure of this amount would cause a candidate to reach but not exceed his or her IEC. If a candidate has reached his or her TAL, he or she may not deposit additional funds into the CCTA.  However, the candidate may open a Campaign Contingency Account (“CCA”) and deposit contributions into the CCA in anticipation of his or her IEC being raised.  Funds deposited in a CCTA would not be deemed to exceed the TAL if they are transferred from the CCTA to the CCA within two business days of depositing those contributions in the CCTA.

A candidate may not deposit any funds into the CCA if the amount of funds in the CCTA is less than the TAL. The candidate may not make any expenditures from the CCA.  When a candidate’s IEC is raised, funds from the CCA may be transferred to the CCTA to allow the candidate to reach, but not exceed, his or her TAL.

Within ten days of establishment of the CCA, the candidate must file SFEC Form 108 with the Ethics Commission. If there are any funds remaining in the CCA after the election (you reached your TAL and were not able to transfer these funds to your CCTA), the candidate must turn over these funds to the City. Within ten days after the election, a candidate who elected to establish a CCA must submit a money order, certified check or other written instrument prepared by the financial institution, made payable to the Ethics Commission for an amount equal to the amount of funds in his/her campaign contingency account, and submit it to the Ethics Commission along with Form SFEC 108.

Running the campaign

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