2020/2021 Filing Guide for Political Action Committees
This guide is intended to give committees information and tips to complete successful filings as required under the Michigan Campaign Finance Act (MCFA). Committees are also encouraged to obtain further training by attending one of the instructional webinars that provide guidance in complying with the MCFA and its disclosure obligations. The webinars also give instruction on the use of the MERTS software.
Information Covered in this Guide:
- Filing Deadlines for 2020 and 2021 Calendar Years (LINK)
- Coverage Dates of Statements
- Reporting Waiver Provisions
- Electronic Filing Requirement
- Tips for MERTS Users
- Paper Forms
- Ensure Timely Filing
- Avoid Late Filing Fees!
- Accurate Campaign Statements Required
- Statement of Organization Amendments Required With Campaign Statement
- Identification Requirements
- Dissolution Information
- Filing Reminder Communications
IMMEDIATE DISCLOSURE REPORTS
48 HOUR/LATE CONTRIBUTION REPORTS
FAILING TO FILE WILL BE EXPENSIVE!
A committee that participates in an election is required to file a 48 Hour/Late Contribution Report (48 Hour Report) if the committee meets both conditions stipulated below:
- Makes an expenditure during the late contribution reporting period to a ballot question or candidate appearing on the ballot; and
- Receives a single contribution or cumulative contribution from the same person of $2,500.00 during the 48 Hour reporting period.
Link to dates?
A 48 Hour Report must be received by this office within 48 hours after the committee’s receipt of the contribution. A 48 Hour Report must contain the date and amount of the contribution along with the contributor’s name, street address, occupation, employer and principal place of business. The contribution must also be disclosed on the next campaign statement filed by the committee.
48 Hour Reports are NOT waived by a Reporting Waiver.
For committees not required to file electronically and that choose not to use the e-IDR Internet application (as discussed above), the 48 Hour Report may be submitted by email at Disclosure@Michigan.gov. A form for filing a 48 Hour Report on paper is available on the Campaign Finance website.
Late filing fees will be assessed for contributions reported on a campaign statement that were not reported on a 48 Hour Report as required. When preparing the next campaign statements, committee must take care to accurately report the receipt date of any contributions. Any contributions that meet the definition of a late contribution reported during the period that were not filed within the 48 hours will result in fees. A committee wishing to contest a fee must provide proof of the receipt date or other reason to context the fee.
A committee, committee treasurer or designated record keeper who fails to file a 48 Hour Report required under the MCFA is responsible for the payment of a late filing fee up to $2,000.00. See Appendix E for details on how quickly this fee accumulates.
SPECIAL ELECTION INDEPENDENT EXPENDITURE REPORTS
A state level committee is required to file a Special Election Independent Expenditure Report if the committee makes an independent expenditure to support or oppose a candidate or ballot question within 45 calendar days before a special election in which the candidate or ballot question is involved.
“Independent expenditure” means an expenditure by a person if the expenditure is not made in cooperation, consultation, or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a ballot question committee or a candidate, a candidate committee or its agents, or a political party committee or its agents, and if the expenditure is not a contribution to a committee.
Link to dates for SEIERs?
The report must be filed with the Department of State’s Bureau of Elections within 48 hours after the independent expenditure is made. The independent expenditure must be disclosed on the next campaign statement filed by the committee.
The report is waived if the committee makes the independent expenditure before the closing date of a campaign statement that is due before the date of the special election and the independent expenditure is included in that campaign statement.
For committees not required to file electronically and that choose not to use e-IDR (as discussed above), a Special Election Independent Expenditure Report is made by attaching an Itemized Independent Expenditures Schedule (2B-1) to a Campaign Statement Cover Page, entering the appropriate information and submitting the forms within the 48-hour period explained above. More information for Immediate Disclosure Reports can be found in Appendix G.
COVERAGE DATES OF STATEMENTS
A Campaign Statement’s opening date starts one day after the closing date of the previous statement. Please see the following table for coverage dates.
|January||10/21 - 12/31|
|April||1/1 - 04/20|
|July||4/21 - 7/20|
|October||7/21 - 10/20|
Note: If the committee has never filed a campaign statement, the first campaign statement filed opens on the earlier of the following two dates:
- the committee’s formation date or
- the date the committee accepted its first contribution or made its first expenditure.
REPORTING WAIVER PROVISIONS
A committee is exempt from the campaign statement filing requirements if it currently has a Reporting Waiver or qualifies for and obtains a Reporting Waiver on or before the due date of a required campaign statement. A committee that does not expect to spend or receive more than $1,000.00 in a calendar year and has asset and debt balances below $1,000.00 is eligible for a Reporting Waiver. More information on the Reporting Waiver can be found in Appendix C.
ELECTRONIC FILING REQUIREMENTS
Committees that spend or receive, or expect to spend or receive $5,000.00 or more in a calendar year are required by law to file electronically. A committee may become subject to the electronic filing requirement mid-year if its contributions or expenditures equal or exceed $5,000.00. In this case, a committee is required to notify this office within 10 business days of reaching the threshold and must file all subsequent statements electronically. Once the electronic filing requirement is met, a committee is required to continue filing electronically even if the committee’s balance falls below $5,000.00. Committees that are not required to file electronically are encouraged to voluntarily file electronically. When filing electronically, a paper submission is not required. See Appendix D for more information.
Electronic filing software for filing Campaign Statements is provided free of charge. For additional information on filing electronically, go to www.mertsplus.com.
TIPS FOR MERTS USERS
Back up your MERTS file! Having an extra copy of your file on a separate removable media is essential to ensure the committee is able to file accurate statements in the event of a catastrophic loss of data. It happens more often than you think! The Bureau of Elections does not have a copy of the committee’s .DCF or back-up file.
Create only one file for the committee. After the initial set up of the committee file, always select “Open an Existing Committee” upon opening the software. To ensure accurate filings, the committee must create and use only one file in MERTS. A new report is created in the Reports Tab, not by creating a new committee file. (File names should be generic and not contain the name of the report, as one file will house all reports.)
Create Campaigns. When reporting expenditures made to support or oppose a candidate or ballot question, the candidate or ballot question race information (or campaign) must be included. Instructions for creating Campaigns in the software can be found in the MERTS User Guide. Using Campaigns ensures that the software is able to report cumulative totals accurately and the committee files complete and accurate statements. Committees that do not complete the campaigns will receive a Notice of Error or Omission requesting the missing information.
Check the Election Cycle to ensure it is current. Enter a new Election Cycle for each election the committee makes expenditures to support or oppose a candidate or ballot question. A separate election cycle is not needed for every candidate or ballot question, only for each election year and office term length. Below are examples of election cycles and suggested names to use for the cycle:
|Suggested Name (Election Year/Term Length)||Common Offices||Cycle To/From Dates|
|2020 2 Year||State Rep, Statewide BQs||11/7/2018 – 11/3/2020|
|2020 4 Year||Local 4 Year Offices||11/9/2016 – 11/3/2020|
|2020 6 Year||Judges||11/5/2014 – 11/3/2020|
|2020 8 Year||Justices & Statewide Boards||11/7/2012 – 11/3/2020|
Start entering data early. Don’t wait for the Close of Books to begin adding information. The data can be saved and changed as needed before the filing deadline. Don’t forget to back-up the file after each session. You can file as early as the day after the Close of Books through the filing deadline without accruing fees. The sooner you file after the close of books, the better chance you will have to receive prompt assistance from the Bureau of Elections should you have issues with uploading.
If the committee is eligible to file on paper, forms are available. All paper campaign statements must contain a cover page and summary page, along with any schedules to support what is reported on the summary page. When filing on paper, one original copy of the campaign statement is required.
ENSURE TIMELY FILING
Type of Submission
|Electronically Filed||All||Received by the BOE by 5:00 pm on the Filing Deadline|
|Paper or Removable Media
• Hand Delivered
|All||Received by the BOE by 5:00pm on the Filing Deadline|
|Paper or Removable Media mailed by:
|Postmarked on or Before the Filing Deadline (regardless of when it arrives)|
|Paper or Removable Media mailed by:
|Postmarked two or more days Before the Filing Deadline (regardless of when it arrives)|
- A campaign statement submitted on paper by a committee required to file electronically will not be accepted.
- A campaign statement that is filed by removable media will not be considered filed if it cannot be loaded due to circumstances that are not within the Department’s control including missing files, incorrect file attachments or corrupt files.
- A campaign statement will not be accepted if it is illegible, does not bear the proper signature(s), is not the proper size, does not contain the schedule(s) required to substantiate the information listed on the summary page or is presented in a computerized format that has not been pre-approved by the Bureau of Elections.
AVOID LATE FILING FEES!
All filings are required to be filed timely. The MCFA does not allow for extensions of the filing deadlines; therefore, committees that file late are assessed late filing fees. Late Filing Fee assessment chart is available in Appendix E.
ACCURATE CAMPAIGN STATEMENTS REQUIRED
Be sure to include complete and accurate information on the statement forms. Notices will be sent to the committee if forms contain apparent errors or omissions. The committee is then required to respond to the notices in a timely manner.
Further, Section 33 and Section 35 of the MCFA require accurate and complete statements. A committee treasurer or designated record keeper who knowingly files an inaccurate or incomplete campaign statement may be subject to penalties and late filing fees.
STATEMENT OF ORGANIZATION AMENDMENTS REQUIRED WITH CAMPAIGN STATEMENT
We urge you to review your committee’s Statement of Organization (SofO) before you file a campaign statement. If any information on the SofO has changed, be sure to file an amendment no later than the due date of the campaign statement. The committee is encouraged to file an amended SofO as soon as a change of information takes place. If a committee has a Reporting Waiver and is not required to file campaign statements, amendments to the SofO should be filed any time information on the form changes.
Committees are required to add an identification statement (ie Paid for with regulated funds by) on printed matter, radio advertisements and television advertisements. A committee is also required to add an identification statement on mass mailings and prerecorded telephone messages (robo-calls) that in express terms advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate or ballot question. See Appendix J for more information.
A committee that has not been dissolved and does not have a Reporting Waiver must continue to file campaign statements as required by the MCFA. To dissolve, committees must request dissolution from the Bureau of Elections. When a dissolution request is received, the Bureau of Elections will determine if the committee is eligible for dissolution and grant or deny the request. Reasons for dissolution denial include but are not limited to:
- The committee has unpaid Late Filing Fees owed.
- The committee has failed to file required campaign statements.
- The committee has outstanding Error or Omissions Notices.
- The last campaign statement filed by the committee indicates the committee has debts and or assets.
Committees who are denied dissolution, but qualify for the Reporting Waiver will be granted the waiver. However, committees who are denied dissolution and do not qualify for the Reporting Waiver will be required to continue to file campaign statements required by the MCFA.
Please refer to Appendix W for additional details on dissolving the committee.
FILING REMINDER COMMUNICATIONS
The Bureau of Elections will no longer send postcard reminders prior to the due dates of the campaign statements. Instead, email reminders will be sent to the email addresses on file for the committee. (Be sure to update your SofO to supply the most current email for the committee.) These reminders are sent as a courtesy. Failure to receive correspondence from the Bureau of Elections is not a defense for failing to file a required statement timely. Because of this, it is imperative that the committee establish their own reminder of the due dates to ensure the statements are filed on time.
In addition to email reminders, the Bureau of Elections will post filing reminders on Twitter@MichCFR.
If you have any questions, please contact us.