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Independent Expenditures

I’m an individual or part of a group -- not a political committee -- and I want to buy an ad asking people to vote for or against a federal candidate.  What do I need to know?

You should be familiar with FEC rules on disclaimers and reporting for “independent expenditures” if you are an individual or part of a group and want to buy an advertisement expressly advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified federal candidate (such as a billboard, newspaper, television, or radio advertisement saying “Vote for” or “Vote against” a federal candidate) that is not made in cooperation, consultation, or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate, a candidate’s authorized committee, or their agents, or a political party or its agents.  These advertisements, called “independent expenditures,” must include a disclaimer and, under certain conditions, be reported to the FEC in a timely manner.


Reporting. Independent expenditures above a certain dollar amount must be reported in a timely manner to the FEC.  Individuals and groups of persons must file a report with the Commission on FEC Form 5 at the end of the first reporting period in which independent expenditures with respect to a given election aggregate more than $250 in a calendar year, and in any succeeding period during the same year in which additional independent expenditures of any amount are made.  Reporting requirements are detailed on the FEC’s website.  Also see Form 5 Instructions.

Requirement to disclose contributions made to further independent expenditures.  Each contributor who made a contribution in excess of $200 for the purpose of furthering the independent expenditure(s) reported on FEC Form 5 must be itemized on Schedule 5-A, including their identification information (11 CFR § 109.10(e)(1)(vi) and 52 U.S.C. § 30104(c)(2)(C)).  If the entity did not receive any contributions over $200 for the purpose of furthering the independent expenditures disclosed on FEC Form 5 for the applicable reporting period, it can include a statement via memo text or Miscellaneous Document (Form 99) to prevent a Request for Additional Information from the Reports Analysis Division.  The statement should indicate that no contributions were solicited or received for the purpose of furthering the disclosed independent expenditures, if this is the case.  Filers should include this statement with each applicable report.

Need more help?  Refer to the Citizens’ Guide or call the FEC’s toll-free information line: (800) 424-9530.


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