If you’re a local election candidate who is running a for office for the first time, you might have a few questions about how to set up a political campaign bank account. While it isn’t a very difficult thing to do, starting your campaign bank account is an important step in the political election process, since it will allow you to take political donations, deposit contribution checks and money from supporters, and make campaign purchases.
Here’s a very important precursor: campaign finance ethics laws in most states make it clear that you MUST have a political campaign bank account established in order to legal deposit fundraising donations and write out checks for purchases from your campaign. While it is possible to use your own personal funds to make campaign purchases before you set up your campaign bank account, those purchases must usually be listed on your first campaign finance report as an in-kind donation or a personal loan.
As you can see, opening your political campaign checking account early is vital if you are a local candidate who wants to run a successful election effort.
Before you open your campaign bank account, you need to go to your local county Board of Elections and file the necessary paperwork to establish a political campaign committee. You’ll have to give your campaign committee a name during this process (my committee name, for instance, is “Vote Van Treuren”). This name is going to be what you use to open your campaign bank account.
Here’s a campaign finance question that I hear frequently: “Should I open a checking account or a savings account for my political campaign?” It’s a great question, and while you can do either, I suggest you stick with a no-interest free checking account with no minimum required balance for your political campaign.
The reason why I say you should open an interest-free checking account for your political campaign and not a savings account is simple: because it will create less paperwork for you and your committee treasurer when it comes time to file your finance reports. Election law in most states requires that you fill out separate forms to declare your campaign savings account balances and the amount of interest earned on the account. With a simple free political campaign checking account, you won’t have to worry about the extra work.
Keep in mind that you do NOT have to establish your political campaign bank account at the same bank where you do your personal finances. While it might be ideal to do so, if you bank does not offer free checking accounts with no minimum balance required, you will need to find another local bank that doesn’t.
When you open your campaign account, you will need to provide the bank with the paperwork establishing your campaign committee, as well as your own personal identification. After they create your account, the bank will provide you with checks that you can make purchases and payments with from your campaign account, and you will be able to start making deposits into your account immediately.
As a political candidate, it’s important that you keep detailed records of every campaign account transaction, purchase, donation and check that is written. Because of this, I suggest that you keep a special file folder dedicated to political campaign finance, and that you place every single bank statement that you receive in that file. Never discard or throw away these records, since you might need to go back and provide copies of transactions in case your finance reports are challenged or questioned.