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

Individuals or entities who make contributions totaling $10,000 or more 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.

Major Donors may also have to file additional reports within 24 hours if they make contributions totaling $1,000 or more 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 a new state law effective January 1, 2018, certain committees must file a report when making contributions totaling $5,000 to support or oppose a local ballot measure or referendum. This disclosure must be made using the 24-Hour Contribution Report, though 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.

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.

  • FPPC Form 461 – Major Donor and Independent Expenditure Committee Campaign Statement
  • FPPC Form 497 – 24-hour Contribution Report

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.

Persons making independent expenditures

An individual or entity spending $1,000 or more 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.

Independent expenditure committees may also have to file additional reports within 24 hours if they make independent expenditures totaling $1,000 or more to a support or oppose a candidate or measure during the late reporting period. The late reporting period covers the 90 days prior to an election and the date of the election. Also, certain committees must file a report when making independent expenditures totaling $5,000 to support or oppose a local ballot measure or referendum. This disclosure must be made using the 24-Hour Independent Expenditure Report, though committees have ten days from the date on which the aggregate amount of expenditures supporting or opposing a ballot measure reaches $5,000 to make the filing.

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.

  • FPPC Form 461 – Major Donor and Independent Expenditure Committee Campaign Statement
  • FPPC Form 496 – 24-hour Contribution Report

Also, 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.

FPPC Form 462 Verification of Independent Expenditures Report

FPPC Form 462 is required to be filed with the Fair Political Practices Commission within 10 days of making an independent expenditure that totals $1,000 or more in a calendar year to support or oppose a candidate or measure. A candidate or measure is listed only once for each election.

24-Hour Expenditure Reports Regarding City Candidates

During the period that begins 90 days before the election and covers through the date of the election, 24-hour reports are required when a committee makes expenditures of $1,000 or more affecting a single candidate. (Note: State law also requires the 24-hour reporting of independent expenditures regarding ballot measures as discussed above).

When a person (including a committee) makes independent expenditures totaling $1,000 or more per candidate during the 90 days prior to an election or on the date of the election, FPPC Form 496 must be filed within 24 hours along with a copy of the communication:

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:

FPPC Form 496 Late Independent Expenditure Report

An independent expenditure is an expenditure that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate or the qualification, passage or defeat of a clearly identified measure, or taken as a whole and in context, unambiguously urges a particular result in an election but which is not made to or at the behest of the affected candidate or measure.

A committee making an independent expenditure of $1,000 or more per City candidate must file a Form 496 Late Independent Expenditure Report in electronic format (Exception: Only state committees may file Form 496 in paper format). The corresponding communication must be filed by email or personal delivery (the communication must reference the Form 496 report number to which it relates).

SFEC Form 162 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.

A committee making an electioneering communication of $1,000 or more per City candidate must file a Form 162 Electioneering Communications Report along with the corresponding communication, by email or personal delivery (the communication must reference the Form 162 report number to which it relates).

SFEC Form 163 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.

A committee making a member communication of $1,000 or more per City candidate must file a Form 163 Member Communications Report and must be filed, along with the corresponding communication, by email or personal delivery (the communication must reference the Form 163 report number to which it relates).

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).

The Ethics Commission has produced its own guides for General Purpose Committees and Ballot Measure Committees which set forth local rules that apply to those committees.  It has also produced a Fact Sheet explaining the electioneering communication” and “member communication” reporting rules.

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:

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