Best Practices 101 – 48 Hour Notices
It’s no secret that FEC compliance is complicated and requires a great deal of time and attention to detail. Serious financial implications and damages to your campaign’s reputation are at stake.
Red Curve Solutions effectively navigated FEC filing requirements for the largest Presidential campaign in history, while simultaneously managing the compliance of several Congressional and Senate campaigns. Our dedicated team knows the ins and outs of FEC reporting and has extensive experience preparing for deadlines, compiling necessary data, and ensuring timely delivery of information to the FEC.
A team that consists of accounting, software, legal, and financial professionals lends a breadth of knowledge to finance and compliance matters. We deliver the highest standard of compliance services so that you can spend more time communicating your campaign’s message rather than dealing with the complications of fines and violations.
The most common source of FEC violations is the failure to report required information for Last Minute Contributions (48-Hour Notice). Fines result from failing to file, failing to file on time, or inadequately reporting contributions.
The FEC requires campaigns to disclose contributions received during the final 20 days of an election that are greater than or equal to $1000 within 48 hours of receipt.
A common misconception is that these notices should only be filed for check or credit card contributions. According to FEC guidelines, all of the following transactions must be disclosed in 48-Hour Notices:
- Contributions from the candidate
- Candidate draws on personal credit cards
- Loans from the candidate
- Loans from other non-bank sources
- Endorsements or guarantees of loans from banks
- Both monetary and in-kind contributions
The FEC determines violations of 48-Hour Notices by comparing the information (or lack thereof) in recent reports to subsequent FEC filings. Inconsistencies are researched and omissions are flagged as follow-up items, likely resulting in Requests for Additional Information (RFAI) and/or fines.
The fine for failing to file timely 48-Hour Notices is $110 for each non-filed notice plus 10% of the dollar amount of the contributions not reported. This can add up quickly:
President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign was fined $375,000 by the Federal Election Commission for campaign reporting violations – one of the larges fees ever levied against a presidential campaign.
The major sticking point for the FEC appeared to be a series of missing 48-hour notices for nearly 1,300 contributions totaling more than $1.8 million — an issue that lawyers familiar with the commission’s work say the FEC takes seriously.
The letter highlights in April of last year, Pittenger received a donation totaling $309,000. Officials with Pittenger’s campaign said that Pittenger himself made the donation and although they reported it to the FEC, it wasn't reported within the 48-hour window. Despite this, the FEC is fining Pittenger $31,010.
So, what are specific procedures and personnel structures that can be put in place to aid in the proper reporting of 48 Hour Notices?
1. Be aware of timelines.
Once your campaign is within the 20-day window, make sure staff is aware of the strict reporting guidelines. This will help with timely communication among staff members, including those not always in direct contact with the finance team.
2. Have dedicated personnel looking at real-time donation processing.
If someone is responsible for monitoring the donor database and flagging activity that reaches the $1,000 threshold, there is a point of contact and a basic system in place to trigger the need to file a 48 Hour Notice.
3. Obtain a donor database software package that is timely and pertinent.
The key to compliance with these notices is having immediate access to all relevant data. Technology is vital and is one of the most effective tools for maintaining a compliance reputation in good standing.
4. Always have a back-up plan.
Often circumstances beyond your control lead to mistakes. If you discover something that should have been reported, communicate your changes and best efforts with the FEC as soon as possible. Being proactive is always better than the alternative.