Ethics Commission
City and County of San Francisco

Public Financing Program

About the Public Financing Program

San Francisco’s partial public financing system for candidates for Mayor and the Board of Supervisors is designed to strengthen the accountability of candidates to the voters who elect them. Candidates who meet established criteria can qualify to receive limited amounts of public funds for their campaigns and can spend less time fundraising and more time discussing issues important to their constituents. By increasing the importance of relatively small, individual contributions in election campaigns, public financing systems help encourage new and diverse voices among candidates as well as those whom they are elected to represent.

Under the program, candidates certified as eligible to receive public financing may receive up to the following amounts in public funds:  $1,200,000 (Non-Incumbent Mayoral Candidates), $1,185,500 (Incumbent Mayoral Candidates), $255,000 (Non-Incumbent Supervisorial Candidates) or $252,000 (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. Eligible candidates are also encouraged to review the Introduction to the San Francisco Public Financing Program.

Important Dates for Candidates Seeking Public Financing 

If you are a candidate planning to apply for public financing in the November 2020 electionyou must comply with the deadlines shown in the table below. Please review the Supplemental Guides for Mayoral and Supervisor candidates for details on complying with each filing requirement.  

DeadlineDate
Election DateTuesday, November 3, 2020
Date Range for Eligible Qualified ContributionsMay 3, 2019 through August 25, 2020
First Date a Qualifying Request (Form SFEC-142(b)) May be FiledMonday February 3, 2020
Deadline to File Statement of Participation (Form SFEC-142(a))Friday, June 12, 2020
First Date Public Funds Can Be DisbursedMonday, June 15, 2020
Last Date to File (Or Refile) A Qualifying Request (Form SFEC-142(b))No later than Tuesday, August 25, 2020
Last Date to Resubmit a Qualifying Request (For SFEC-142(b))Friday, September 4, 2020
Deadline for Executive Director to Make Final Determinations on Qualifying RequestsWednesday, September 9, 2020
Deadline to Submit Matching Requests (Form SFEC-144(c)/144(d))5:00 PM on Thursday, December 3, 2020

Apply for public financing

Candidates interested in seeking public funds must first electronically file the Statement of Participation or Non-Participation (SFEC Form 142a) indicating an intent to participate in the program. This form must be filed no later than 3 calendar days after the deadline for filing nomination papers. If this deadline falls on a weekend or legal holiday, the deadline will be extended to the next business day.

Thereafter, candidates must electronically file a Qualifying Request for public funds, which includes a list of all qualifying contributions that demonstrates the candidate has raised the required number and amount of matching funds from San Francisco residents.  Supporting documents must show that the contributions exist and that the contributors are individuals who are residents of San Francisco.

To qualify for public funding, a candidate for the Board of Supervisors must demonstrate that they have 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 by the 70th 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 they have 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).

In addition to the fundraising requirement, candidates must also meet further requirements prior to certification and throughout the election. These requirements are outlined in more detail in the Supplemental Guide for Public Financing, and in San Francisco Campaign & Government Conduct Code Sec. 1.140. All candidates, their treasurers, and committee officers participating in the public financing program are responsible for understanding and complying with all eligibility requirements.

Mandatory Audit of Publicly Financed Candidates

As part of the City’s public financing program, all candidates have been certified eligible to receive public financing for their campaigns must be audited by the Ethics Commission after the election. Commission audits determine the committees’ degree of compliance with applicable state and local laws, and produce written audit reports for the committee and public to detail any material audit findings. Audits may be initiated within 60 days after the first post-election campaign report is due for publicly financed.

Special Filing 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. This form must be filed regardless of whether any other candidate in the race has been certified to receive public financing.

In a race where at least one candidate has been certified to receive 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 (Supervisor candidates) or an additional $50,000 (Mayoral candidates).

For additional information on all the forms and statements candidates may be required to file, including the Ethics Commission’s local filing schedule for committees, please review the “Reporting & Recordkeeping for Candidates” page on the Commission’s website.

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 candidates for Board of Supervisor start at $350,000, and the IEC for candidates for Mayor starts at $1,700,000.  This means candidates who have applied for public financing or who have been certified eligible for public financing cannot spend more than his or her IEC limit until it is raised. A publicly financed candidate will always be bound by an IEC.

As necessary, the Ethics Commission may raise a candidate’s IEC in response to in increments of $50,000 for candidates for Board of Supervisors, and in increments of $250,000 for candidates for Mayor.  Adjustments to a candidate’s IEC will be made based on the funds raised by that candidate’s opponents and independent expenditures made to support or oppose candidates in that race.

A candidate’s IEC may be raised incrementally, but it cannot be reduced or removed altogether. Because IEC limits are adjusted on an individual basis, candidates in the same race may have different expenditure ceilings. When the Ethics Commission raises a candidate’s IEC, the Commission notifies affected candidates and posts this information to its website.

Any person (including committees other than candidate committees) who makes independent expenditures, member communications or electioneering communications in support or opposition of a candidate at a cost 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.

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.

Payments of Matching Funds

Once certified as eligible to receive public funds, a candidate for the Board of Supervisors will receive an initial public funds grant of $60,000 and a candidate for Mayor will receive $300,000. Candidates may be eligible to receive additional public funds, based on the private contributions they raise, through the submission of a Matching Request. The tables below summarize the maximum amount of funds candidates for the Board of Supervisors and Mayor can receive under the public financing program.

Maximum Allowable Matching Funds: Candidates for Board of Supervisors

Private Funds Raised by Non-IncumbentsMatching Public FundsPrivate Funds Raised by IncumbentsMatching Public Funds
Initial$10,000$60,000$15,000$60,000
1:6$32,500$195,000$32,000$192,000
Total$42,500$255,000$47,000$252,000
Total Public and Private Funds$297,500$297,000

Maximum Allowable Matching Funds: Candidates for Mayor

Private Funds Raised by Non-IncumbentsMatching Public FundsPrivate Funds Raised by IncumbentsMatching Public Funds
Initial$50,000$300,000$75,000$300,000
1:6$150,000$900,000$150,000$885,000
Total$200,000$1,200,000$222,500$1,185,500
Total Public and Private Funds$1,400,000$1,407,500

Notification of Eligibility Certification

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.

Running the campaign

 

Was this page helpful?

Scan with a QR reader to access page:
QR Code to Access Page
https://sfethics.org/compliance/campaigns/candidates/public-financing-program