Candidates running for state and local offices have homework due: for the first time since the end of the qualifying period March 11, they’ll have to file reports showing their campaign contributions and spending.
The deadline for filing campaign contribution disclosure reports for these state and local candidates was March 31, but Georgia has a grace period of five business days before late fees are assessed — a period that ends April 7.
These disclosure reports include all campaign contributions and expenditures for the period covered by the report — in this case, it would include all campaign finances up to and including March 30, according to Janine Eveler, director of the Cobb County Board of Elections and Registration.
“Everything that they earn or spend up until March 31 is reported on that filing,” Eveler said. “They have to wait until that day to actually file it because if they file it early, it won’t include March 31. … It’s actually the 30th because they can file it on the 31st. That’s the first day they’re allowed to file it.”
Despite the March 31 deadline, many candidates use the grace period to compile all the information necessary for the reports, Eveler said.
“If they were on the ball, they would have it ready to go (on March 31), and then if something came in at the last minute, they would just set it in there. But a lot of them have other people doing it, they don’t necessarily do that. … The grace period means that they’re allowed to wait until (April) 7th, and they aren’t fined or anything. It’s not considered late until after the grace period,” Eveler said.
The county elections office is the recipient for local candidates, such as those seeking seats on the county board of commissioners or school board as well as state court judges. Candidates for office at the state level, such as the state Legislature, as well as the county’s superior court judges file their paperwork with the state office, Eveler said.
Stefan Ritter, executive secretary for the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, said the period that the March 31 reports cover depends on when the candidate filed their declaration of intent to run for office. This DOI is required for a candidate to receive or spend money on their campaign and doesn’t necessarily line up with qualifying, Ritter said.
“You can file a DOI whenever you’re ready to begin receiving contributions. That can be before you qualify for office. Qualification for office is a separate thing from filing a declaration of intent,” Ritter said.
Essentially, the March 31 report covers all campaign finances since the last time a candidate filed a report, Ritter explained. This could be their declaration of intent to run for office if they’re a new candidate or it could be a previous campaign finance report if they have been campaigning for a while. January 31 was the most recent deadline for campaign finance reports.
“The period that the (March 31 campaign contribution disclosure report) covers is the period from the last report that they filed,” he said. “It’s going to, perhaps, if they filed a previous CCDR, it’s going to show the balance at the time of that CCDR, and then go forward showing the receipts that they had in terms of contributions and expenditures that they have in contributions.”
Regardless of when a candidate filed an intent to run for office, they are required to set up a separate account for the campaign, Ritter added.
“You can either have a campaign committee that has the account or you can just do a separate accounting with a separate account, but you do have to have a separate bank account for your campaign from your own personal finances. What the CCDR is going to basically show is the ins and outs on that account.”
In these reports, contributions of less than $100 don’t have to be listed individually — they can be totaled and reported in bulk. For contributions more than $100, candidates are required to report the contributor.
However, candidates are not allowed to accept anonymous contributions, Ritter said. All contributors must be known to the candidate, but those who give contributions less than $100 do not have to be disclosed to state or local offices.