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Independent Expenditures

Q: What are the laws and rules that apply directly to independent expenditures?

SMC 2.04.265
SMC 2.04.270
SMC 2.04.275
SMC 2.04.290
Elections Code Administrative Rule 8

Q: What is an Independent Expenditure?

SMC 2.04.010(21) provides that “Independent expenditure" means expenditure on behalf of, or opposing the election of, any candidate, or any City ballot proposition, when such expenditure is made independently of the candidate, his/her political committee, or agent, or of any ballot proposition committee or its officers or agents, and when such expenditure is made without the prior consent, or the collusion, or the cooperation, of the candidate or his/her agent or political committee, or the ballot proposition committee or its officers or agents, and when such expenditure is not a contribution as defined in SMC Section 2.04.010(13). An independent expenditure is made by a person on the earliest of the following events: (a) the person agrees with a vendor or provider of services to make an independent expenditure; or (b) the person incurs the obligation to make an independent expenditure; or (c) the person pays for an independent expenditure.

Q: What are the Sponsor Id requirements for independent expenditures?

A. All written political advertising, regardless of who pays for it, must show the sponsor’s name and address, and in the case of broadcast political advertising such as radio, television or automated phone calls, the sponsor Id must be clearly spoken, but does not have to include the sponsor's address.

As for political advertising paid for by an independent expenditure, State law (RCW 42.17.510) has a special requirement that the advertisement show the following language:

"No candidate authorized this ad. It is paid for by (name, address, city, state)"

Further, if this type of ad is sponsored by a political committee, the following must also appear:

• “Top Five Contributors” followed by a list of the names of the five persons or entities making the largest contributions in excess of $700 to the PAC during the 12 months before the ad runs. If a political committee keeps records necessary to track contributions according to the use intended by contributors, that committee may identify the top five contributors giving for that purpose; AND

• The full name of the individual or entity that established or directly maintains or controls the sponsoring committee (or indirectly maintains or controls the sponsoring committee through the formation of one or more political committees).

Recommended format:
No candidate authorized this ad. It is paid for by The Committee for Good Government (Gotham City Merchants Assn.) Top Five Contributors: …

The following statement must be clearly spoken: “No candidate authorized this ad. Paid for by (name, city, state).”

State law allows the sponsor id on TV ads to be in print as long as it, appears and is visible for at least four seconds, is in letters greater than 4% of the visual screen height, and has a reasonable color contrast with the background. There is no such provision in City law. Therefore the sponsor ID must be clearly spoken.

The Top 5 contributor names, as discussed under “written advertisements,” are necessary if the ad is sponsored by a political committee required to file with the PDC. The top 5 contributor names are also required for telephone transmissions. Independent expenditure advertising in the form of yard signs, bumper stickers, skywriting or other items exempt from sponsor ID is also exempt from the Notice to Voters, Top Five Contributors, and controlling individual/ entity ID requirements.

Q. Is there a reporting obligation for independent expenditures?

A. Yes, there is.

If you spend $100 (in the aggregate) or more on an independent expenditure for a particular candidate or campaign, you must file a C-4 report with the City Clerk within five days. If you make an independent expenditure of $1,000 or more (in aggregate) in the 21 days before an election, you must file a special report by 4:30 p.m. the following business day. Please see SMC 2.04.270.

Also, each person involved in making the independent expenditure has to sign a statement certifying under pain of perjury that the expenditure “was made without consultation, collusion or cooperation” with the campaign benefiting from the expenditure. See SMC 2.04.275. File the certificate(s) together with the actual report of the expenditure.

One more thing to remember – if you disseminate (eg. mail, broadcast, robocall)1,000 pieces or more of a political advertisement benefitting a candidate or ballot initiative during one calendar year, then within two days after that dissemination, you must file with the SEEC a copy of the advertisement along with a statement disclosing the number of pieces sent, or persons reasonably expected to view the advertisement. See SMC 2.04.270(C).

Q. How do I file a Special Report?

If you have not already registered as a user on the SEEC e-filing system, contact our Campaign Finance Auditor or IT Professionalto get set up.

Once you have logged into the SEEC e-filing system

1. Select the File a Special Report option on the left.
2. Enter the Name of your Committee.
3. Click Proceed.
4. Select either the Contribution or the Independent Expenditure button. Are you reporting the Receipt of a Contribution, or are you reporting an Expenditure you just made?
5. Complete the template that appears on the screen.
6. Click Save.
7. Review the report, make any changes if necessary.
8. Check either New or Amendment.
9. Add any notes to clarify the report to the public.
10. Click File.

For Contributions

Report the contributor’s aggregate for the duration of the campaign, not just during the 21 days before the election. Use the description field for in-kind contributions. Be specific if someone purchased something on behalf of the campaign. Include vendor names and amounts. If the purchase is for advertising, include the number of pieces, and a description of the advertising (eg. signs, mailing, tv, robocall) in addition to the vendor information.

For Independent Expenditures:

In the Date field, use the date the Expenditure was incurred (which may be before you received a bill or an invoice).

In the Description field, include the name of the candidate or ballot issue that is benefitting from the expenditure.

Description Examples:
Description: 10,000 postcards in support of Dale Evans for Mayor.
Description: 57,893 robocalls opposing Roy Rogers for City Council.


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