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Political Practices & Campaign Finance

Campaign and Election Practices

State and federal law restricts the business of election and campaign financing.  In 1971, Congress passed the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) to regulate the financing of federal election campaigns.  FECA limited the amount candidates could contribute to their own campaigns and imposed disclosure requirements for campaigns to report contributions and expenditures.  It also limited spending amounts on paid advertising for campaigns.  

 

Montana’s 1972 Constitution provides for the public’s right to know and be involved in the government, which supports transparent elections and campaign financing.  In 1975, Montana created the Commission on Political Practices (COPP) to ensure there is full disclosure and reporting of all money and sources used to influence Montana elections.  The COPP oversees the enforcement of Montana’s campaign finance laws, including investigations of any alleged violations, which can be a crime.  The COPP and its processes provide an important constitutional function for the citizens of Montana. Information on Montana’s COPP can be found here

 

Campaign finance laws are complicated and changing.  The reporting systems vary among the federal and state systems.  Law on campaign finance vary based on the type of election, including primary and general elections, candidates, and ballot issues.  Individuals are restricted on types and amounts of contributions they may give depending on the campaign.  Organizations are restricted from contributing funds to campaigns unless they too comply with separate reporting requirements.  A detailed reporting of all campaign expenditures and contributions are required, including describing with certain specificity any in-kind contributions or expenditures. Using each state’s reporting software can also provide its own challenges and reporting calendars and deadlines change from year-to-year.  You have to also ensure funds are spent and advertisements are placed for candidates and issues in compliance with campaign finance laws. 

 

In addition to direct enforcement by the COPP, other individuals can file complaints against individuals, organizations, campaigns, candidates and committees for failing to comply with Montana’s campaign finance laws.  Responding to a complaint and resolving deficient reporting issues can be stressful and complicated.  Having an attorney to assist you can be key to timely resolving the issue and minimizing the fallout.  

 

Blackford Carls attorneys are experienced in campaign finance laws and reporting requirements.  Blackford Carls attorneys have served as the treasurer and deputy treasurer for several ballot issue committees and incidental committees, managing and maintaining campaign funds, ensuring reports are timely filed and that all legal requirements are met.  In 2020, Blackford Carls managed and maintained the money and campaign finance reporting for a ballot issue committee that exceeded $7 million dollars in contributions and spending. In 2021, Blackford Carls successfully started and maintaining a political action committee to help fund and support the approval by voters for a bond to build a new courthouse needed by the community. 

 

If you are running a campaign or are an organization that wants to contribute corporate dollars to an election, but don’t want to deal with the campaign finance compliance and reporting requirements, Blackford Carls can help you or your organization.

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