A filer is responsible for filing statements or reports on time. Late filing impedes the public’s access to campaign finance and lobbying information. A main purpose of the Political Reform Act is to obtain filing of the campaign and lobbying disclosure statements required by statute. To encourage timely filing, the Act imposes $10 per day liability for late filing of statements or reports. (See Government Code section 91013.)
The Secretary of State’s office does not have the authority to waive liability for late filing fines unless we can conclude both that the late filing was not willful and that imposing the liability will not further the purposes of the Political Reform Act. (See Government Code section 91013.) Accordingly, a request for a waiver must meet the criteria described below.
Waiver Request Process
A request for waiver of liability of a late filing fine must be submitted within 30 calendar days of the date the Secretary of State’s office notifies a filer of the fine. If more than one late fine has been assessed, a separate form must be submitted for each late filing fine.
A waiver request must be submitted on a Request for Waiver of Liability Form (Form PRD-1 (PDF)). The waiver request must be signed by the filer, treasurer, responsible officer of the filer, or an attorney representing the filer. The person who signs the Form PRD-1 must affirm the truthfulness of the information included in the Form PRD-1.
There is no provision for refund of already paid fines or credit toward a filer’s account.
When submitting a Form PRD-1, attach all relevant documentation that supports the reason for the late filing. Examples of supporting documentation are hospital records showing dates and the nature of incapacitation; death records or obituaries; and police reports of stolen property. If you have any questions about what documentation is necessary to support the grant of a waiver, contact the Political Reform Division before submitting the form at (916) 653-6224.
The following are the reasons the Secretary of State’s office will consider in determining whether a late filing fine is eligible for a full (100%) or partial (50%) waiver:
Unplanned medical incapacity or death of the filer or the filer’s immediate family
Substantiated reasons that prevented a filer from filing in a timely manner, provided that the filer filed as soon as the reason abated, are eligible for a full (100%) waiver. Immediate family is defined as the filer’s spouse or registered domestic partner; sibling; sibling’s spouse or registered domestic partner; child or stepchild; child or stepchild’s spouse or registered domestic partner; grandchild; parent; spouse or registered domestic partner’s parent; or grandparent.
Unavailability of records
Substantiated proof that unavailable records prevented timely filing will result in a full (100%) waiver. Reasons records may not be available include but are not limited to natural disaster, fire, and theft.
The Political Reform Act includes both $10 per day late filing liability that is assessed by the Secretary of State’s office and civil penalties for violations of the Act of up to $5,000 per violation that are imposed by the Fair Political Practices Commission (“FPPC”). (Government Code sections 91013 and 91005.5.) In most cases, a late filing liability will be assessed quickly by the Secretary of State’s office unrelated to, or before the start of, any enforcement action. However, if a penalty has already been imposed on the filer by the Fair Political Practices Commission (“FPPC”) or a court for the same late filing violation, the Secretary of State’s office may waive its late filing fine.
Requests for waiver based on an FPPC enforcement action must include a signed copy of the Stipulation, Decision and Order showing the matter has been resolved. In most cases, the Secretary of State’s office will grant a full (100%) waiver when an FPPC enforcement action was resolved for the same late filing conduct.
Requests for waiver based on a court decision must include court documentation showing resolution of the civil or criminal matter. The Secretary of State’s office will consider whether a waiver is appropriate because of court decisions on a case by case basis.
Generally, being a novice filer is not an eligible reason for a waiver of late filing fines. Training and advice about filing obligations is available from the Fair Political Practices Commission at www.fppc.ca.gov.
If a person is a first-time filer, the Secretary of State’s office may consider a partial (50%) waiver of late filing fines if the following criteria are met:
- For all filers: the filer was not using a professional or experienced treasurer at the time of the filing obligation and the filer had a comparatively low level of activity that they failed to report in a timely manner.
- For a candidate or committee: the filer has not filed campaign statements with the Secretary of State before.
- For a major donor: the filer has never hit the threshold for filing a major donor report.
If a person is a first-time electronic filer, the Secretary of State’s office may consider a full (100%) or partial (50%) waiver of late filing fines for a late electronic filing. To qualify for this waiver, the filer must have recently become required to file both electronically and on paper; have never filed electronically with the Secretary of State’s office previously; and filed the paper version of the late electronic filing.
Other reasons may entitle filers to either a full (100%) or partial (50%) waiver of a late filing fine. A filer shall describe in detail the nature of the circumstance and why that circumstance prevented them from filing in a timely manner.
Common Reasons for Waiver Request Rejection
The following are examples of reasons that do not constitute eligibility for a waiver:
- Not receiving notice of filing requirements
- Not being available to sign forms
- Change of personnel
- Neglect or forgetfulness
- Not knowing where to get the forms or how to file them
- Not picking up your mail
- Administrative or clerical errors
- The inclusion of the transaction required to be reported on a subsequent or other report
The Secretary of State’s office will typically make a determination within two weeks of receipt, though business demands and evaluation of unique circumstances may affect our efforts to provide a prompt determination. The Secretary of State’s office may request additional information or documentation as it considers waiver requests.
These guidelines were last updated on February 1, 2020 (Version 11/26/19).
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. If I submit a request for waiver of liability of late filing fines, will the fine assessed on the committee be removed from the list of outstanding fines published on the Secretary of State’s website?
A: No. The fine will not be removed from the list while awaiting the determination of the waiver request.
Q. If I notify the Secretary of State’s office that I am working with the FPPC regarding an enforcement action for the same late filing conduct, will the fine assessed on the committee be removed from the list of outstanding fines published on the Secretary of State’s website?
A. No. The fine will not be removed from the list while awaiting the resolution of the enforcement action.
Q. Will the Secretary of State’s office waive the $10 per day liability for late filing of the paper version of a campaign statement when an electronic copy has been filed in a timely manner?
A. Generally, yes. The paper version of the campaign statements is still required by the Political Reform Act until the new CAL-ACCESS system is operational (in February 2021). The new CAL-ACCESS will have all electronic filings and no paper filings. In this transition time, however, when the Secretary of State’s office and the filing community are moving toward the new system of all electronic filing, the Secretary of State’s office will generally waive fines on late filing of the paper version.