Table of Contents
- A - Committee Treasurer, Designated Record Keeper and Depository
- A1 - Campaign Finance Recordkeeping - Best Practices
- A2 - Information for Michigan Financial Institutions
- B - Registering a Committee With a Statement of Organization Form
- B1 - Filing Requirements
- C - The Reporting Waiver
- D - Electronic Filing of Campaign Statements (State Level Committees Only)
- E - Late Filing Fees, Waivers and Reviews
- F - Fundraisers
- G - Immediate Disclosure Reports
- 48 Hour/Late Contribution ReportsSpecial Election Independent Expenditure Reports24-Hour Reports
- H - Committee Types
- I - Use of Public Facilities, Funds, Etc, Prohibited
- J - Identification Requirements
- K - Out-of-State Groups
- K1 - Independent Expenditure Committees (IEC/Super PAC) Groups, Organizations, Corporations, Unions and Domestic Dependent Sovereigns (DDS/Indian Tribes)
- K2 - Federal Candidate Committees
- L - Independent Contractors (Media Buyers and Other Vendors Purchasing Goods for the Committee)
- M - Recount Expenses
- N - Violations and Penalties
- O - Prohibited Contributions
- O1 - Contributions Exemptions
- O2 - Contributions Received by a Partnership,LLC or PLLC
- P - Special Primary, General and Recall Elections
- Q - Individuals and the Michigan Campaign Finance Act (MCFA)
- R - Incumbent Candidates
- S - Campaign Signs - FAQs
- T - Transfers
- W - Dissolution of a Committee
- X - Declaratory Rulings and Interpretive Statements
- Y - The Complaint Process
- Z - Reference Information
CAMPAIGN FINANCE RECORDKEEPING- BEST PRACTICES
Committees are funded by volunteer contributions from individuals, groups and organizations that want to participate in our political process. Contributors, large and small, want their interests represented and considered. When they donate to a campaign they are putting their trust in the committee to carefully manage and spend the funds responsibly and legally. It is incumbent upon the committee members to put in place basic measures to keep that trust.
- All Committees Must Comply With the MCFA
- The Role of a Treasurer and Designated Record Keeper
- Newly Appointed Treasurer – Getting Started
- Accountability Through Accurate Recordkeeping
- Recommended Internal Controls
- Filing Schedule
- How Can MERTS Benefit a Treasurer?
All Committees Must Comply With the MCFA: A committee cannot accept contributions or pay expenditures without having a Treasurer on file with the appropriate filing official. The responsibilities of the Treasurer may change slightly depending on the various committee types (i.e. Political and Independent Committees (PACS), Independent Expenditure Committees (IEC/Super PACS), Candidate Committees, Political Party Committees, or Ballot Question Committees); however the tasks are essentially consistent. All Committees must comply with the MCFA. Compliance requires the Treasurer be committed to obtaining and applying:
- knowledge of the MCFA;
- attention to detail;
- time and care in recording and reporting committee activity;
- accountability and honesty.
All Committees must comply with the MCFA. The Bureau of Elections conducts instructional webinars for committees that seek guidance in complying with the MCFA and its disclosure obligations. The webinars also provide instruction on the use of the MERTS software. Visit our website for more information at www.Michigan.gov/campaignfinance. Bookmark this site and visit often for updates.
The Role of a Treasurer and Designated Record Keeper: The Treasurer’s role is vitally important to the success of a committee. The treasurer:
- assumes legal responsibility for the committee;
- is responsible for keeping the committee’s accounts, records, bills, receipts and electronic files of the committee for 5 years;
- must authorize all contributions received and expenditures made by the committee;
- is responsible for the timely filing of accurate and complete campaign statements; and
- is responsible for responding in writing to all Notices of Error or Omission sent to the committee and for timely payment of all late filing fees assessed to the committee.
A committee may designate another individual in addition to the committee Treasurer, commonly called the committee’s “designated record keeper,” as equally responsible for the committee’s record keeping, report preparation, or report filing. The committee’s designated record keeper and be served by any individual and shares legal responsibility for the committee with the Treasurer.
Newly Appointed Treasurer – Getting Started Here is a list of tasks that we suggest for newly appointed Treasurers or Treasurers that want to implement our best practices.
- Bookmark our website at www.michigan.gov\campaignfinance and visit often for update.
- Review the “Getting Started” checklist for the committee by visiting our website at www.michigan.gov\campaignfinance.
- Review bank signatories and add or delete names as appropriate.
- Review and update the committee Statement of Organization on file with the filing official. File amendments as needed.
- Obtain all check books, credit/debit cards from the outgoing Treasurer.
- Meet with the outgoing Treasurer to discuss all spending commitments, campaign filing deadlines, the current budget, etc.
- Organize a meeting with the Candidate (for Candidate Committees) and other committee members to discuss the financial status of the committee.
- Prepare a calendar timeline of all upcoming campaign statement filing deadlines.
- Become familiar with the MERTS software (www.mertsplus.com). Register for the MERTS and/or Campaign Finance Training Webinars offered by the Bureau of Elections.
- Prepare monthly budget statements by reviewing past bills, bank statements and campaign statements. Become familiar with the past normal operation of the committee.
- Get organized and plan to maintain accurate monthly records of all financial transactions (incoming and outgoing funds).
- State filers: Follow us on Twitter @Michcfr and read all emails and letters sent by the Bureau of Elections. The campaign finance newsletter, “The Full Disclosure Report” is automatically sent to the committee email addresses provided.
Accountability through Accurate Recordkeeping: The integrity and accountability of a committee’s recordkeeping must be maintained at all times to minimize and prevent errors and embezzlement of funds. The Treasurer must keep detailed records of all receipts, transfers, loans, liabilities, contributions and expenditures to keep the committee financially sound. These records must be kept on file by the committee for a period of 5 years; and they must be available to substantiate the filings made under the MCFA.
- The Treasurer and the Designated Record Keeper should monitor and oversee all transactions, including sources of revenue, anticipated expenses, loans, contributions received or disbursed, etc.
- Establish and maintain a monthly spreadsheet to document all financial transactions. Back up and save the records on a separate storage media that is kept in a secure place separate from the original files.
- Bank statements and the checkbook should be balanced monthly. Always reconcile bank transaction amounts immediately; and if unexplained errors occur then contact the bank/credit union for further review.
- Take into consideration, contributions handled by candidates and committee members, copies of vouchers, bank statements, cancelled or voided checks, payments (especially those authorized by a candidate), etc. All financial records should be kept by the committee for 5 years to validate and substantiate campaign statements.
- If there are variances of any kind that cannot be explained, alert the other committee members.
- If embezzlement of funds has been uncovered, immediately notify the other committee members. Also, law enforcement and the filing official should be notified as well. Amended campaign statements may be needed to correct any reporting errors due to the misappropriation.
Recommended Internal Controls: It is incumbent upon the candidate (for Candidate Committees) and committee members to establish internal controls to protect committee members and funds. To assist committees, the following are recommended as the minimum internal controls that committees should implement to prevent misappropriations and falsified disclosure reports.
- Open the committee’s bank account in the committee name and with the committee’s Employer Identification Number (EIN). It is in the committee’s best interest to never open a bank account in a committee member’s name and with their Social Security Number. A candidate must never comingle the funds of his personal account with funds collected or attributed to the committee.
- Three way reconciliation is recommended. Bank statements should be reviewed and reconciled for any discrepancies every month. Compare the bank statement balance with the checkbook balance. Then compare the bank statements to the campaign statements. Prior to filing any campaign statements, someone other than the check signatory (or Treasurer) should reconcile all bank records for accuracy.
- Thoroughly examine monthly bank statements and all cancelled checks to make sure that every check has been accounted for (or voided out) and that the numbers are not out of sequence. Ensure that all blank checks have not been pre-signed. If possible, store the checks in a locked area and limit access.
- Bank statements and records should be reviewed, initialed, dated and filed under lock and key. The MCFA provides that committee records must be preserved and kept on file for 5 years.
- Assign separate staff to handle the committee deposits and expenditures. The same person should not handle both responsibilities.
- All cash and check collections should be recorded and deposited in the bank/credit union daily. A list of all committee receipts should be kept and a restrictive stamped endorsement (i.e. “For Deposit Only to the Account of the Committee Name”) should be used on the back of each committee check.
- Care should be taken when using online contribution collection services. By using these services, the committee is giving the organization authority to collect contributions for the committee and is therefore an agent of the committee. Online contributions should be reported as being received on the day the vendor reports receiving the contribution. Any fees associated with using this service should be reported as an expenditure and not deducted from the contribution amount.
- Deposits should be made by two individuals. Periodically, conduct unannounced cash and check counts.
- Committee checks, wire transfers and disbursements that exceed $500 should be authorized and signed by two different individuals.
- Restrict the use of credit/debit card to only one or two individuals. Set up account limits and cash withdrawals with the issuing credit card companies and the banks/credit unions
- Review monthly all credit/debit charges; cell phone bills; mileage reimbursements; and other committee expenses are appropriate and are business related.
The Treasurer, Designated Record Keeper and Candidate are all liable for the committee’s fund handling and late filing fees. It is in all of the committee members best interests to adhere to the guidelines and duties stated in the MCFA and follow the minimum best practices outlined in this publication.
- Late Filing Fees are assessed when committees fail to file a campaign statement/report timely. The MCFA holds Treasurers, Designated Record Keepers and candidates equally and severally liable for the payment of late filing fees.
- Penalties for violations of the MCFA range from civil fines to possible felony convictions. Review the potential penalties in Appendix N.
- Treasurers that resign from a Committee are required to work with the new Treasurer to transfer all financial information and records of the committee (i.e. bank statements, passwords, debit/credit cards, etc.).
- When the Treasurer resigns from a Candidate Committee, the Candidate automatically becomes the Treasurer until a new Treasurer is appointed.
It is the responsibility of the Treasurer to maintain accurate and complete records of all financial contributions and expenditures. This financial information must be filed via campaign statements that are required by the MCFA on specific due dates with specific coverage dates.
- Plan ahead and use a calendar tool to map out the specific filing due dates of the committee. Filing Deadline schedules according to committee types are found in the Campaign Statement Finance Schedule and should be closely monitored
- Take advantage of our filing reminders. Follow us on Twitter @Michcfr and read all emails and letters sent by the Bureau of Elections. The campaign finance newsletter, “The Full Disclosure Report” is automatically sent to the committee email addresses provided.
- Don’t wait until the last minute to file or add data to your filings. Filing deadlines cannot be extended.
How Can MERTS Benefit a Treasurer?
The Bureau of Elections offers free software called the Michigan Electronic Reporting and Tracking System (MERTS) which Campaign Treasurers can use to file their committee’s mandatory original and amended Campaign Financial Reports over the Internet. The software can be downloaded at www.mertsplus.com. This software is beneficial and is available to all state level committees that file with the Michigan Secretary of State’s office.
- Webinar Trainings for Compliance with the MCFA and the MERTS software are free and offered by the Bureau of Elections several times a year.
- Step-by-step instructional MERTS Tutorial videos, MERTS User Guides for committee types and MERTS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and other helpful resources are accessible anytime for committees to use if Treasurers get stuck trying to complete Campaign statements. These materials can be found at www.mertsplus.com.
- MERTS is compatible with Microsoft Windows 7, 8, and 10. An Internet connection is required to download the MERTS software. The browser must be Internet Explorer 11 or higher.
- Free support is provided for MERTS filers. Call during normal business hours: 517–335–3235 or email us at Disclosure@michigan.gov
- The system helps you comply with the MCFA by tracking contribution cumulative, expenditure cumulative and provides warnings when potential violations have occurred.
- Original and amended campaign statements can be via MERTS Original paper form created Amended Campaign Statements.