Ethics Commission
City and County of San Francisco

Courtesy Notice – January 27, 2016 – Reminder about Changes to Campaign Finance Laws and Regulations, the February 1, 2016 Semi-Annual Deadline, Terminating Committees, Preparing Campaign Statements, Additional Filing Requirements and Audits

Date: January 27, 2016

To: 

  • Recipient committees (Including Candidates and Officeholders)
  • Candidates for the June 7, 2016 and November 8, 2016 election who do not have a committee
  • Major donor and independent expenditure committees

From: LeeAnn Pelham, Executive Director

Re:     

1. Reminder about changes to campaign finance laws and regulations;
2. Courtesy notice regarding the February 1, 2016 semi-annual filing deadline;
3. Information on terminating committees;
4. Guidance on preparing and filing campaign statements; and
5. Additional Filing Requirements
6. Audits of Committees Active in 2015
 
Please review this memorandum carefully.  It contains important information about your campaign disclosure filing obligations.  If you have questions on any of the items discussed below, please call our office at 415-252-3100 during normal business hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

1. Reminder about changes to campaign finance laws and regulations

Below is a short summary of changes to the Political Reform Act that took effect January 1, 2016:

  • The threshold to qualify as a recipient committee was raised from $1,000 to $2,000.
  • FPPC Form 495 has been eliminated
  • While FPPC Form 465 is no longer required to be filed under state law, local law still requires supplemental reporting of independent expenditures of $1,000 or more to support or oppose the qualification of a measure (i.e., during the period in which signatures are gathered).  Thus, the Form 465 must be filed by any committee that makes independent expenditures of $1,000 or more to support or oppose the qualification of a measure during the period in which signatures are gathered.  See S.F. C&GC Code § 1.113 and EC Regs §§ 1.113-1 and 1.113-5. 
  • The Late Reporting period (period in which Forms 496 and 497 are filed) was amended to include the election date itself in addition to the 90 days preceding the election.
  • Applications for Public Financing for the Board of Supervisors race this November must be electronically filed with the Ethics Commission (See Additional Filing Requirements).

For more information about these and other changes, please contact Ethics Staff at 415-252-3100 or by email at ethics.commission@sfgov.org.

2. Courtesy notice regarding the February 1, 2016 filing deadline

This section provides important information about the upcoming February 1, 2016 filing deadline.  Please review the information below to determine your filing obligation.

A. Who needs to file?

The following filers must file a semi-annual statement with the Ethics Commission:

 a. Non-candidate recipient committees must file:

  • FPPC Form 460 Recipient Committee Campaign Statement. 

b. Candidate/Officeholder committees must file:

  • FPPC Form 460 Recipient Committee Campaign Statement. When a candidate or officeholder controls more than one committee for offices within the same jurisdiction, all committees of that candidate or officeholder must file statements each time any committee statement is due.  When an elected officeholder in one jurisdiction runs for an office in another jurisdiction, the officeholder and all committees that he or she controls must file statements in both jurisdictions (see Cal. Code Regulations §18405).

c. Candidates for the November 8, 2016 election who filed a Form 501 Candidate Intention Statement by 12/31/2015, DID NOT have a committee in the year 2015 and DID NOT raise or spend $1,000 or more in 2015 must file a Form 470 Officeholder and Candidate Campaign Statement-Short Form for the 2015 calendar year.

d. Candidates for the June 5, 2016 County Central Committee election who DID NOT have a committee in the year 2015 and DID NOT raise or spend $1,000 or more in 2015 are NOT required to file ANY campaign statements for the 2015 calendar year.

e. Major donor and independent expenditure committees must file:  

  • FPPC Form 461 Major Donor and Independent Expenditure Committee Campaign Statement if there was any activity during the reporting period covering through 12/31/2015. 

f. For statements that are NOT electronically filed, the Commission requires an original and one copy of each statement signed and dated by the treasurer and/or candidate. You may obtain FPPC forms at the Fair Political Practices Commission website: http:www.fppc.ca.gov.  You may obtain local SFEC forms at the SF Ethics Commission website: https://www.sfethics.org.

B. What is the period covered by the Statement?

The statement covers the period between: either (a) the day after the closing date of the previous statement filed through December 31, 2015; or (b) if no statement was filed in 2015, January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2015.  Candidates for city elective office without committees file Form 470.  The period covered by a Form 470 is the calendar year (i.e., 1/1/15-12/31/15).

C. What records do you need to keep?

State law requires committees to keep all campaign records for a period of four years from the date the related campaign statement was filed.  The candidate and treasurer are responsible for maintaining the records and for the accuracy of the records.  In general, you must keep a record of all receipts and expenditures.  For more detail on the types of records that you must maintain, please refer to the recordkeeping section of the relevant FPPC Campaign Disclosure Manual.  FPPC Manuals may be obtained from the Commission’s office or from the FPPC’s website at www.fppc.ca.gov.  Please also refer to the SF Ethics Commission’s List of Records Required for Audit, which can be found at www.sfethics.org.

D. Do you need to file electronically?

All recipient committees, major donor committees and independent expenditures committees must file the following FPPC forms electronically: 460, 461, 465, 496 and 497.  A committee that files electronic campaign statements must continue to file electronically until it terminates.  You do not need to file a paper statement if you are required to file electronic statements.  There are two ways to comply with this requirement:

  1. Internet Filing.  Committees may use the Commission’s free San Francisco Electronic Disclosure System (SFEDS).  A registration form and a user guide are available on the Commission’s web site at www.sfethics.org
  2. Political Reporting Services.  Campaigns may wish to purchase political software or reporting services.  You may obtain a list of qualified third-party software vendors at http://www.ss.ca.gov/prd/approved_vendors.htm.  (Please note that these are listed for informational purposes and that the Commission does not endorse these services.) 

E. What is the fee for the late filing of paper and/or electronic reports?

Filing deadlines will be strictly enforced.  Late filings are subject to a $10-per-day late fee for paper reports and a $25-per-day late fee for electronic reports. 

3. Information on terminating committees

If no funds are left in the campaign bank account and you will not raise additional funds, you should close the account and campaign committee by filing Form 460 Termination (covering through 12/31/2015) indicating a zero-ending cash balance and Form 410 (mark the termination box).  Before terminating, you must have filed all required campaign statements, disclosing all reportable transactions, including the disposition of leftover funds and elimination of all debts. 

If you do not terminate your committee, you must continue to file Form 460.  Please call Commission staff at 415-252-3100 for information on your future filing obligations (if you do not terminate) and what you can do with the money remaining in your campaign bank account.

4. Guidance on preparing campaign statements

If you need guidance in preparing your campaign statements, you may schedule an appointment to meet with staff by calling 415-252-3100.  Due to the high volume of filings received around the filing deadline, staff encourages you to address your filing concerns several days before the February 1 filing deadline.

5. Additional Filing Requirements

A. Notification by candidates for the Board of Supervisors of reaching activity thresholds

A candidate for the Board of Supervisors must file an SFEC Threshold Form within 24 hours of receiving or spending $10,000 or more.
In a race where at least one candidate has been certified as eligible to receive public funds, all candidates involved in such race must file the Threshold form with the Ethics Commission within 24 hours of receiving contributions, or making expenditures that equal or exceed $100,000. Thereafter, the candidate must file an additional supplemental statement within 24 hours of every time the candidate receives additional contributions, or makes additional expenditures that in the aggregate equal or exceed $10,000.  The Ethics Commission will update its website and notify candidates when it certifies a candidate as eligible to receive public funds.

B. Notification by candidates for the Board of Education or Community College Board

A candidate who wishes to accept the voluntary expenditure ceiling (VEC) must file Form SFEC-128 no later than the August 12, 2016 deadline for filing nomination papers.
In a race where at least one candidate has accepted the VEC, all candidates running for office in the same race must file Form SFEC-134(b) within 24 hours of receiving contributions, making expenditures, or having funds that exceed 100 percent of the applicable VEC.  The Ethics Commission will update its website and notify candidates when at least one candidate in a race has accepted the VEC. 

C. Public financing program for the November 8, 2016 election

Staff are completing internal tests of the Ethics Commission’s new electronic filing system for submitting claims for the City’s public matching funds program.  We are working to make sure the online system will go live by early February, when candidates seeking to qualify for matching funds in connection with the 2016 City elections can begin submitting their qualifying documentation.

In the November 8, 2016 election, public funding is available to eligible candidates running for the Board of Supervisors.  To receive public funds, a candidate must demonstrate, among other things, that he/she raised at least $10,000 ($15,000 for incumbents) in qualifying contributions ($10-100) from at least 100 (150 for incumbents) residents of the City (from 5/8/15-8/29/16).  Prior to applying for public funds, a candidate must have filed a statement of participation or non-participation (SFEC-Form 142a) by June 14, 2016, indicating an intent to apply for public funds.  A candidate may apply for public funds beginning February 8 through August 30, 2016.  The first day on which the Ethics Commission may disburse public funds to eligible candidates is June 20, 2016. For more information about the public financing program, refer to the Supplement for Candidates for the Board of Supervisors.

6. Audits

Committees that were active in 2015 may be selected for audit through a random selection process by the Ethics Commission. The selection of committees will take place either the February 2016 or March 2016 meeting of the Ethics Commission. Please see the Ethics Commission’s website for a list of records that committees must keep and provide for audit.

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