Monday, November 7, 2016

How to run for the US House with FEC reports to set up a campaign committee

Congratulations! You want to run for the United States House of Representatives -- the People's House!

But how do you do it?

A few basics: there are 435 Members of the House, each elected from his or her own district (until the 1960s, not all Members were elected from their own district; some of them shared a larger district). You don't have to live in the district that you want to represent but you do need to live in the state that you want to represent. Be sure you have been registered to vote in the state for at least two years before the election you would like to win.

Candidates for the House need to follow all federal campaign finance laws. There are quite a lot of them, but this blog post is for the basics on how to get set up with the Federal Election Commission and follow the basic rules.

This is a long and helpful guide by the FEC for congressional candidates to review.

Note this blog post is only for candidates for the U.S. House. Those who wish to run for the United States Senate have slightly different rules as they file some of their reports with the Office of the Secretary of the Senate, not just the Federal Election Commission.

House candidates exclusively file reports with the Federal Election Commission. The process starts by filing a Statement of Candidacy with the FEC. This is your statement to the world that you are, in fact, a candidate for the U.S. House. The Statement of Candidacy form is called Form 2 and you can mail in a hard copy or submit it online. This form is due 15 days after becoming a candidate. The instructions for filling out Form 2 (and the legal requirements) are available from the FEC here.

Now that you are an official candidate, you need to create your campaign committee. This is the entity that accepts donations and makes expenditures. The candidate doesn't do anything personally - all money raised and spent goes through this campaign committee. You can call it just about anything you want: Citizens for You; You for Congress; Friends of You; You for Your State. For reference,  Republican Speaker Paul Ryan and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi use Ryan for Congress and Nancy Pelosi for Congress respectively, so you can't go wrong with that one.

You create your campaign committee by filing FEC Form 1 - a Statement of Organization. There is a hard copy you can mail in or you can submit it online. The most important decision for this form is recruiting a campaign treasurer. This person is responsible for ensuring all reports are submitted to the FEC and is also personally liable to the FEC for any fees that remain unpaid. It's a big job. The treasurer must report every dime in and every dime out to the campaign committee in several reports to the Federal Election Commission. Recruit someone you trust who is diligent.

Later posts will explain all the filing requirements when you are up and running, but this is all you need to get started as a candidate for the US House. Open up a bank account (you might need to get an EIN from the IRS to do so) and you are ready to accept contributions (subject to lots of limitations to be discussed elsewhere) and make expenditures on your behalf. Here is a taste of the reports that you and your treasurer will need to file with the FEC (courtesy of the FEC's guide to congressional candidates).

Good luck!

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