Ethics Commission
City and County of San Francisco

Contributor & Third Party Reporting Requirements

Contributors and other persons making expenditures in political campaigns may have public reporting obligations depending on their level of activity.

Contributors (Major Donors)

Major Donor Campaign Statement

Individuals or entities who make contributions totaling $10,000 or more, in the aggregate, (including loans) to local office holders, candidates, and recipient committees in a calendar year must file “Major Donor” reports that disclose those contributions. These reports are filed semi-annually and, in some cases, during pre-election reporting periods.

  • FPPC Form 461 – Major Donor and Independent Expenditure Committee Campaign Statement

24-Hour Independent Contribution Reports

Major Donors may also have to file additional reports within 24 hours if they make contributions totaling $1,000 or more, in the aggregate, to a candidate for County Central Committee, a ballot measure committee, or a primarily formed candidate committee during the late reporting period. The late reporting period covers the 90 days prior to an election and the date of the election.

Also, under state law, recipient committees must file a 10-day contribution report when making contributions totaling $5,000 or more to support or oppose the qualification of a local ballot measure. Committees have ten days from the date on which the aggregate amount of contributions to a ballot measure committee reaches $5,000 to make the filing.

The Fair Political Practices Commission has produced a comprehensive guide for Major Donors which explain the relevant reporting rules. It also has produced a filing deadlines schedule. Also, Major Donors should pay particular attention to Sec. 1.135 of the Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance which may require the filing of Supplemental Pre-election Statements. Note that special reporting rules apply to nonprofit organizations that make contributions.

Major Donors who make more than 70% of their contributions in San Francisco, and do not make any state level contributions, must file their reports electronically with the Ethics Commission.  Review the registration requirements to sign up for electronic filing.

Please refer to the Fair Political Practices Commission’s (FPPC) Where to File Campaign Statements for questions related to your filing jurisdiction.

Persons or Entities Making Independent Expenditures

Independent Expenditure Campaign Statement

Any person or entity spending $1,000 or more, in the aggregate, of their own funds for independent expenditures that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a candidate or ballot measure must file disclosure reports semi-annually and, in some cases, during pre-election reporting periods.

  • FPPC Form 461 – Major Donor and Independent Expenditure Committee Campaign Statement

24-Hour Independent Expenditure Reports

Any person or entity may also have to file a 24-hour late expenditure report if they make expenditures in connection with an advertisement/communication (e.g., billboard, flyer, poster, or mailing) totaling $1,000 or more, in the aggregate, that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a candidate for City elective office or a local ballot measure during the late reporting period. The late reporting period covers the 90 days prior to an election and the date of the election. Please see instructions for independent expenditure advertisements featuring local candidates for City elective office. 

Additionally, recipient committees must file a 10-day report when making independent expenditures totaling $5,000 or more to support or oppose the qualification of a single local ballot measure or referendum outside of the 90-day election cycle. This disclosure must be made using the 24-hour/10-day Independent Expenditure Report.

Please note: Effective December 4, 2019, media submissions pursuant to Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code Section 1.161(b) (e.g., mass mailing communication, print advertisement; video and audio advertisement including transcripts) must be attached to the corresponding filing within the NetFile system or a compatible third-party system. The Ethics Commission has prepared guidelines describing the electronic formatting specifications that represent the minimum and suggested quality for media submission to ensure communications are clear and legible and will successfully transmit to the Ethics Commission. 

Verification of Independent Expenditures Report

FPPC Form 462 must be filed by email with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) within 10 days from the date the independent expenditure totals, in the aggregate, $1,000 or more in a calendar year to support or oppose a candidate or measure. Please refer to the Form’s instructions for the FPPC-designated email address.

Independent Expenditure Mass Mailings

Any committee that pays for a mass mailing that constitutes an independent expenditure supporting or opposing a candidate for City elective office must file this Itemized Disclosure Statement and a PDF proof of the mailing within: 1) five (5) working days after the date of the mailing; or 2) 48 hours of the date of the mailing if the date of the mailing occurs within the final 16 days before the election. This disclosure must be electronically filed using Form SFEC-161.

EXCEPTION: Committees making independent expenditures to support or oppose a candidate for City elective office are NOT required to file this statement during the time period that they are required to file 24-hour independent expenditures reports along with the itemization of the expenditures made for the communication(s). (See 24-Hour Independent Expenditure Reports Regarding City Candidates below.)

Please note: Effective December 4, 2019, media submissions pursuant to Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code Section 1.161(b) (e.g., mass mailing communication, print advertisement; video and audio advertisement including transcripts) must be attached to the corresponding filing within the NetFile system or a compatible third-party system. The Ethics Commission has prepared guidelines describing the electronic formatting specifications that represent the minimum and suggested quality for media submission to ensure communications are clear and legible and will successfully transmit to the Ethics Commission.

24-Hour Electioneering and Member Communications Reports

When a person (including a committee) makes electioneering communications or member communications totaling $1,000 or more per candidate during the 90 days prior to an election, one of the following forms must be filed within 24 hours along with a copy of the communication:

Please note: effective December 4, 2019, media submissions pursuant to Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code Section 1.161(b) (e.g., mass mailing communication, print advertisement; video and audio advertisement including transcripts) must be attached to the corresponding filing within the NetFile system or a compatible third-party system. The Ethics Commission has prepared guidelines describing the electronic formatting specifications that represent the minimum and suggested quality for media submission to ensure communications are clear and legible and will successfully transmit to the Ethics Commission.

The Fair Political Practices Commission has produced a guide for such “independent expenditure” committees.  It also has produced a filing deadlines schedule.

Independent expenditure committees that make more than 70% of their expenditures in San Francisco, and do not make any state level expenditures, must file their reports electronically with the Ethics Commission.  Review the registration requirements to sign up for electronic filing.

Independent expenditure committees should pay particular attention to Sec. 1.135 of the Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance which may require the filing of Supplemental Pre-election Statements.

Note that entities that collect funds to make independent expenditures (i.e., “PACs”) have different filing requirements. Also, special rules apply to nonprofit organization that make contributions. Those rules are summarized in a guide for Multipurpose Organizations by the FPPC.

Definitions:
Mass Mailing Itemized Disclosure Statement

A mass mailing is over 200 substantially similar pieces of mail, including but not limited to fundraising solicitations and campaign literature that also advocate for or against one or more candidates for City elected office.

Electioneering Communications Report

An electioneering communication is a communication that: 1) refers to a clearly identified candidate for City elective office or a City elective officer who is the subject of a recall election; and 2) is distributed within 90 days before an election for the City elective office sought by the candidate or a recall election regarding the City elective officer to 500 or more persons eligible to vote in that election.

Member Communications Report

A member communication is a communication made by an organization or its committee for the publication, dissemination or communication to the organization’s members, employees or shareholders, or to the families of the organization’s members, employees or shareholders by newsletter, letter, flyer, e-mail or similar written or spoken material, that supports or opposes a candidate or measure during the 90 days prior to an election.

Communications that Affect Multiple Candidates

Payments for a communication that refers only to one candidate are attributable entirely to that candidate. Payments for a communication that refers to more than one candidate, or also refers to one or more ballot measures, should be apportioned among each candidate and measure according to the relative share of the communication dedicated to that candidate or measure.

Coordinated Expenditures are Contributions

An expenditure is not considered independent and will be treated as a contribution from the person/committee making the expenditure to the candidate on whose behalf, or for whose benefit the expenditure is made, if the expenditure funds a communication that is made at the request, suggestion, direction or in consultation, concert or coordination with the candidate on whose behalf, or for whose benefit, the expenditure is made. An expenditure is also not considered to be independent if the candidate makes or participates in making any decision regarding the timing, location, mode, intended audience, volume of distribution or frequency or placement of the communication (see section 1.115 of the S.F. C&GC Code for more information).

Disclaimer Requirements

City and state law impose “disclaimer” requirements on campaign advertising, including campaign mailers, radio and television ads, telephone, robocalls, and electronic media ads by political committees. “Paid for by (name)” is the basic disclaimer required on most campaign communications, but additional requirements do apply.

The Commission has produced charts setting forth the specific disclaimer rules for particular types of political advertising. Learn more about Online Political ads on this page.

II. Independent Expenditure Ads Referring to City Candidates

III. Independent Expenditure Ads on Ballot Measures

VI. All Non-Independent Expenditure Ads (except Ads by Candidates and Political Party Committees)

VIII. Electioneering Communications

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