There is one thing that political candidates in both small local elections and politicians who are running high-profile campaigns have in common: they both have to establish a political campaign committee and keep track of all financial transactions that take place over the course of their campaign.
Starting a political campaign committee is one of the first things you need to do as an election candidate, since you will be unable to legally accept donations or spend money on your campaign until you do. While it’s not a complicated process, new candidates often don’t know how to start a political campaign committee, and it’s worth reviewing for a moment.
After you’ve turned in your election nomination petitions and have been certified as a legitimate candidate on the ballot, your next step should be to create a political campaign committee. While the details can differ slightly from state to state, your first step is usually to go to your local county Board of Elections and ask for the form that is necessary to start your campaign committee.
In most cases, you will only need a few pieces of information to fill out your campaign committee form: the office you are running for; the name of your campaign committee, and the name of your campaign treasurer.
The office you are running for is easy enough to establish, but some candidates obsess a bit too much about what they should name their political campaign committee. Since it will appear on all of their campaign literature, flyers, signs, website and ads, some candidates think that the name of their committee is an extremely important part of their campaign strategy.
In actuality, what you name your campaign committee will have little to do with how well you do at the polls, how much money you raise or how much attention you get. Personally, I named my political campaign committee “Vote Van Treuren” because I liked the sound of it. I could have just as easily called it “The Committee to Elect Phil Van Treuren,” “Friends of Phil Van Treuren,” “Phil Van Treuren for City Council,” or any number of different things.
There is not election ethics laws that dictate what politicians need to name their political campaign committees. My only suggestion is that you do NOT include the name of a specific office when you name your committee. While it might seem smart to name your new committee “Bob Jones for City Council,” you will have to file paperwork to change it if you ever decide to run for another office.
Another thing to keep in mind: your contributors will be required to write their donation checks to your committee name, not to you personally. You will have to establish a separate bank account for your political campaign committee, which I will write more about in a future post.
As for your campaign treasurer, that’s another topic I will devote more time to in a future post, since it is a pretty important decision. Suffice it to say that you should only choose someone you trust for your political campaign committee treasurer, since they will usually be the only other person who is legally allowed to submit your campaign finance reports to the Board of Elections.
When things get very busy on the campaign trail, especially late in the election season, having a competent political campaign committee treasurer is vital. As an active candidate, you won’t have much time to keep track of every campaign transaction, donation and expense, so a good campaign treasurer is a must.