Every day in America, someone decides that they want to run for local, state or federal office. Regardless of which office they might be seeking, many people don’t quite know where to start.
Because I’ve seen the negative consequences of this play out far too often, I’ve decided to put the basic elements of what you would need in a series of blog posts.
This post focuses on one of the most overlooked needs of a campaign; the setting up of a campaign committee.
Once you’ve decided to run for office, you need to set up a committee for your campaign to raise and spend money. Sometimes this committee must be set up before you raise or spend a penny and sometimes there is a 15 day grace period after your first campaign activity.
If you’re seeking local office, this is usually done at the municipal building or county board of elections. For state office, you file the necessary paperwork with the Secretary of State’s office. At the federal level, you use these forms to file with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
Of course, filing paperwork isn’t what most people envision when they decide to run for office but not doing this part correctly can make your campaign look bad and in some cases even be criminal.
In almost every campaign filing, you’ll need a campaign treasurer, a campaign committee name and a dedicated bank account specified for the campaign.
The ideal campaign treasurer is someone with knowledge of the campaign finance rules, organized, will promptly give you information and is someone you can trust. Often times, candidates will put a spouse or family member in this position. While that is typically legal, you may want a non-family member dealing with your campaign finances especially if any discrepancies arise.
Once you have a campaign treasurer, you need to decide on a committee name for your campaign. I suggest a name that isn’t office specific (unless required by law). For example, Citizens for John Doe or Friends of John Doe are good committee names. These names are easy for donors to right on checks and short enough for disclaimers that will have to be on your printed materials.
Finally, you need to set up a bank account for your campaign. The biggest needs of a campaign bank account are online banking capabilities and the ability to avoid banking fees. Far too many campaigns end up paying banking fees instead of using those dollars to persuade voters.
Now, you’re ready to start your campaign.