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Political Reform Division
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Frequently Asked Questions
(revised January 2011)

Campaign FAQ's
Lobbying FAQ's
General FAQ's


Campaign FAQ's

Q: What is the dollar amount or threshold that would trigger the duty to electronically file campaign statements?

If a filer has raised or spent a cumulative amount of $25,000 or more, eletronic filing is required. Receipts include monetary and non-monetary contributions as well as loans received. Expenditures include loans made, accrued expenses, and all cash payments.


Q: What is the aggregation or cumulation period for determining the $25,000 electronic filing threshold?

State major donor and independent expenditure committees must file electronically if they make expenditures of $25,000 or more in a calendar year. All other state filers must file electronically if they receive contributions or payments of $25,000 or more, or make expenditures of $25,000 or more since 1/1/2000.


Q: What campaign entities are subject to electronic filing requirements?

Providing that the $25,000 campaign electronic thresholds specified below are met, the following entities are subject to electronic filing requirements:
  1. All statewide, legislative, Board of Equalization, appellate court, Supreme Court, superior court, PERS Board candidates and officeholders and State Teachers' Retirement Board candidates and officeholders, as well as their controlled committees, including committees primarily formed to support or oppose such candidates or officeholders;

  2. All state measure committees that are primarily formed to support or oppose a state initiative, referendum or recall;

  3. All state PAC's or general purpose recipient committees (which includes party committees and small contributor committees);
  4. All state major donor and state independent expenditure committees;
  5. All state slate mailer organizations; and
  6. Any person who makes a payment of $50,000 for an issue-advocacy communication that identifies a candidate for an elective state or statewide office but does not expressly advocate the election or defeat of that candidate.

Q: What campaign statements and reports are required to be filed electronically?

Once a filer has met the filing threshold that mandates electronic filing, all subsequent reports for that filer must be filed electronically and on paper, regardless of the amount or level of activity in any future report. Reports filed pursuant to Chapter 4, Title 9 of the Government Code are covered by this electronic filing requirement.


Q: If a filer is subject to electronic filing, will paper copies still be required to be filed with the Secretary of State as well as appropriate local filing officials?

State filers are required to file the original and one copy with the Secretary of State, local filings are not required. However, requirements for local filings apply for state candidates who also have a local committee.


Q: Are all controlled committees of a state candidate or officeholder included or aggregated together (rather than cumulated individually) to determine whether the candidate has met the electronic filing dollar threshold for cumulative receipts or expenditures?

Yes. All disclosure statements for all committees controlled by the same person are aggregated together. The electronic qualifying threshold is determined by adding all cumulative receipts or all cumulative expenditures across all controlled committees.


Q: Are all controlled committees of a state candidate or officeholder subject to electronic filing?

Yes. Once a state candidate or state officeholder is subject to electronic filing, all his/her controlled committees must file electronically regardless of the purpose or level of activity. A state officeholder who runs for a local office (or a local officeholder who runs for a state office) must file all applicable state and local controlled committee's reports electronically with the Secretary of State's Political Reform Division.


Q: Once a filer has met the qualifying activity threshold, would a filer ever be required to electronically file any statements or amendments retroactively?

No. But all future reports (and amendments to those future reports) must be filed electronically.


Q: Since state major donors and state independent expenditure committees do not file pre-election statements, what is the first electronic filing deadline for such filers?

Whatever report takes the aggregate total of the filer's activity to $25,000 or more in a calendar year must be filed electronically, such as a late contribution or independent expenditure report, the special quarterly report, or a semi-annual statement.


Q: If I do not meet the qualifying activity threshold, can I electronically file campaign statements with the Secretary of State on a voluntary basis at any time?

Yes. Any filer who is required to file disclosure statements or reports with the Secretary of State may voluntarily file these statements electronically. However, once a candidate or committee files electronically, the filer will incur ongoing electronic filing requirements and must file all subsequent reports electronically pursuant to Government Code Section 84605 (c) & (d). This law prevents non-mandated electronic state filers from selecting which disclosure statements and reports to electronically file and which to withhold from public disclosure on the web. Selectively filing late contribution reports, for example, could be misleading and defeat the purpose of full and accurate disclosure.


Q: When is the electronic report for contributions received of $5,000 or more filed?

This electronic-only report must be filed within 10 business days of receiving $5,000 or more beyond or before the beginning of the 90-day state election cycle. This report only applies to state or statewide candidates/officeholders and state ballot measure committees that have met the $25,000 electronic filing threshold.


Q: When is the 90-day election-cycle electronic report for contributions received of $1,000 or more filed?

This electronic-only report must be filed within 24 hours of receiving contributions of $1,000 or more during the 90 days before a state election. This 90-day filing requirement only applies to state or statewide candidates/officeholders and state ballot measure committees that have met the $25,000 electronic filing threshold.


Q: When is the 90-day election-cycle electronic report disclosing the making of independent expenditures of $1,000 or more filed?

This electronic-only report must be filed within 24 hours of making independent expenditures of $1,000 or more to support or oppose a candidate for elective state/statewide office or a state ballot measure during the 90 days before a state election. This report only applies to state committees that have met the $25,000 electronic filing threshold.


Q: When is the online issue advocacy report filed?

This online-only report must be filed within 48 hours of making a payment of $50,000 or more for an issue-advocacy communication that clearly identifies a candidate for an elective state or statewide office, but does not expressly advocate the election or defeat of that candidate. This report only applies to persons who make issue advocacy communications of $50,000 or more within 45 days of a state election. This report is filed by logging onto the Secretary of State web site (https://cafile.sos.ca.gov/e530/login.asp) and completing the form and submitting it on line.


Q: If a late contribution report or a late independent expenditure report is filed electronically during the 16 days immediately preceding an election, is it necessary to file another paper copy by fax, personal delivery or guaranteed overnight mail?

Effective January 1, 2011, filers required to file late contribution or late independent expenditure reports with the Secretary of State during the 16 days immediately preceding an election must now file these reports electronically. This is true whether or not the filer has met the $25,000 threshold. Paper copies are no longer required.


Q: How are payments to a spokesperson, who appears in advertisements for ballot measures, disclosed?

A committee that pays an individual $5,000 or more to appear in an advertisement, which supports or opposes a ballot measure or its qualification, must file a Form 511 - Paid Spokesperson Report within 10 days of the expenditure. This report is filed by any recipient or major donor committee and shall identify the state or local measure, including the name, number or letter, and jurisdiction of the measure supported or opposed in the advertisement, the date of the expenditure, the name of the individual who was paid $5,000 or more to appear in the advertisement, and the amount of the expenditure.


Lobbying FAQ's

Q: As a lobbying entity, how do I know if I have a requirement to electronically file my lobbying reports?

Entities including a) lobbying firms; b) lobbyist employers; c) lobbyists; d) lobbying coalitions; and e) all other persons (including placement agencts) who spend $2,500 or more to influence legislative or state agency administrative action who meet the threshold requirements listed below are only required to file their disclosure reports electronically. However registration documents must still be filed both electronically and on paper.


Q: What specific lobbying reports am I required to file electronically?

Once a filer reaches the $2,500 threshold that triggers electronic filing, all subsequent filings are required to be filed electronically. These reports include those filed by lobbyist employers, lobbying coalitions, lobbying firms, and persons spending $5,000 or more to influence legislative or administrative action.


Q: If I am required to file electronically, am I still required to file paper copies with the Secretary of State? Are both the original and one paper copy still required to be filed?

If you are a qualified lobbying e-filer whose payments made or received exceed $2,500 in a calendar quarter, you need only file the required quarterly disclosure reports electronically (or online). However, all lobbying registration documents must still be filed both electronically and by paper (an original and one copy).


Q: Once I have met the qualifying activity threshold, would I ever be required to electronically file any reports retroactively?

No, but all future reports must be filed electronically.


Q: If I do not meet the qualifying activity threshold, can I electronically file lobbying reports with the Secretary of State on a voluntary basis at any time?

Yes. You may voluntarily file electronic lobbying reports through an approved electronic filing vendor or online at any time. You will need to get a logon password and ID from the Secretary of State in order to electronically file. The application for obtaining these passwords and ID's is on the Secretary of State's web site at www.sos.ca.gov/prd/electronic_filing_info.htm. However, once you file electronically, all subsequent reports must be filed electronically.


Q: What is my first deadline to file electronically?

Assuming that you have met the $2,500 activity threshold, the report is due 30 days after the close of the quarter in which the qualifying activity occurred. Filing deadline dates are April 30, July 31, October 31 and January 31.


Q: Do lobbyists incur separate electronic filing obligations?

No. Lobbyists file their required Form 615 as an attachment to either the report of lobbyist employer (Form 635) or lobbying firm (Form 625) (See Gov. Code 86114 (a) (4) and Gov. Code 86116 (e)). As a result, if a lobbyist employer or lobbying firm is required to file electronically, it also must file any attached Form 615's electronically.


Q: Do the clients of a lobbying firm incur separate electronic filing obligations?

When a lobbying firm incurs electronic filing obligations, the clients of such a firm do not automatically incur separate electronic filing obligations. Rather, the client must qualify on its own by meeting the dollar activity threshold for that quarter before incurring separate electronic filing obligations apart from the firm. Once qualified, the electronic filing obligation is on-going.


Q: Must a lobbying firm or employer count contributions previously disclosed on their major donor or sponsored PAC campaign statement toward the qualifying dollar threshold for purposes of determining the firm's or employer's electronic filing duties?

It depends on whether the information has already been reported on a campaign statement on file with the Secretary of State. If a lobbying firm or lobbyist employer is a major donor or has a sponsored committee, and if all the campaign contributions made by the lobbying firm or lobbyist employer were already disclosed, then the total amount of the campaign contributions previously disclosed are not required to be itemized on the lobbying firm's or lobbyist employer's quarterly report and, therefore, don't trigger electronic filing requirements. Conversely, contributions which have not previously been reported, and which are required to be itemized on the lobbying report are still counted toward the qualifying dollar or activity threshold for electronic filing.


Q: If a firm or employer does not meet the $2,500 threshold for electronic filing, are reports still required to be filed on paper?

Yes, absolutely. The filing requirements and schedules have not changed. Electronic filing is simply a new, additional way of filing.


General FAQ's:

Q: What is electronic filing?

Although there are many views of what is considered an electronic transmission, the Secretary of State considers a document to have been electronically filed if it successfully comes in through the available port using a TCP/IP method of uploading into the specified filing server. The filed document must be in the Secretary of State's current version of the Cal Format. (You can find a copy of the current version of the format at www.sos.ca.gov/prd/electronic_filing_info.htm).

Note: The following methods are not considered nor accepted as electronic filing with our office: fax, email, floppy diskettes or CD's.


Q: Where on your web site can I look up my I.D. number?

Once an I.D. number has been issued, you can look it up on the Cal-Access website at http://cal-access.sos.ca.gov/default.aspx . Simply start by clicking in the Cal-Access "search field" at the upper left-hand portion of the screen, type in the name you would like to look up and click "go". A page will then show the results with the name and its assigned I.D. number.


Q: Who should I contact if I have a question or concern?

You should always first contact the electronic filing vendor that provides you with your filing software. If your filing vendor cannot assist you with your questions or concerns, you should next contact the Secretary of State. Depending on the nature of your question, Secretary of State staff will determine who can best respond to your needs. Please call the Political Reform Division at (916) 653-6224 and explain your problem. Your question will then be assigned to the appropriate person.


Q: Who should I contact if my electronic filing is being rejected?

If your problem has to do with your electronic filing being rejected and your vendor is not able to correct your filing, please call the Cal Online Help Desk at 1-877-745-3453.



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