Are there federal laws about local election contributions?

I know that even if you are a lawyer, you are not my lawyer and chances are you do not practice in Columbia, SC.

So, my boyfriend is running for mayor (I know, right?) which, obviously, we’ve never done before. And it’s not like he’s the favored candidate or anything - it’s half publicity stunt, half wild outside chance, I guess. And somehow I’m the official campaign researcher - I guess the reward is that if I do a good job I’ll have to be the First Lady of Columbia, which I think means you have to read a lot of books to little children and not do anything to embarrass yourself in public. And I’d definitely have to be a lot more careful about taking the garbage can in in accordance with city ordinances.

So anyway, we’re not sure how this campaign contribution thing works. I ordered him to call the City Clerk and see if he could find out, but I thought maybe you guys might know. I checked the city code and it doesn’t say anything at all about campaign funds. One of the other candidates has this as a box you have to check when you contribute:

  • I confirm that my donation meets the following requirements:
  1. Contributions to local candidates are limited to $1,000.00 per election cycle. This limitation applies to each primary, runoff, or general election cycle.
  2. Contributions may be received from individuals, partnerships, businesses, corporations, or political action committees (PAC’s).
  3. In-kind contributions may be received but are also limited to $1,000.00 per individual or corporation per election cycle.
  4. Contributions by each spouse are considered separate contributions and are not attributable to the other spouse.
  5. Cash contributions are prohibited if they exceed $25.00 for each election. All cash contributions must be accompanied by the name and address of the contributor.
  6. Anonymous contributions are prohibited.

The other major candidate has no such thing.

So. There’s evidently no city rule. Do federal campaign finance reform laws affect running for mayor in Podunk, South Carolina? (Really?) We need to get a donation button up and running while people are still excited over the initial campaign announcement, but we don’t want to go to jail! (And we DEFINITELY don’t want to spend our own money, are you crazy?)

No, absolutely not–but state laws do. Check with a state election authority.

Good lord, it’s impossible to learn a thing from the state election commission’s website. So much for our founding fathers who were silversmiths, brewers, and farmers - they don’t make it easy at all to figure out how to run for office. I had to break out the metaphorical shovel to find out how to file in the first place.

Just have him walk over and talk to Joe Azar. He can probably tell you all you need to know about running for mayor, and. . . I think he might be sitting this one out, so there’s less competition.

From what I’ve read, most of the men involved had studied law, even if they weren’t all lawyers.

No, he’s running. He ALWAYS runs. There will never be a time when he doesn’t run. The skies will rain fire, the earth will swallow the seas, and Joe Azar will be running for mayor. (Taking votes away from my man, too.)

Some comments on this. (I don’t know SC election laws, but I have been and still am Campaign Treasurer for lots of campaigns over the last 20 years, under Minnesota laws , which are stricter than most.)

  1. In Minnesota, contributions from corporations are strictly forbidden. You should check that SC actually allows them. Also, contributions from PAC’s are acceptable only if the PAC is registered with our Campaign Finance Board.

  2. In Minnesota, the contribution must be recorded as coming from the signer of the check, and the limits do apply. So if you get a check for $2,000 signed by John Smith, from the joint checking account of John & Mary Smith, it all goes as a John Smith contribution (and thus is illegal, because it’s over the $1,000 limit). Only if you have specific knowledge that it’s from both of them (like a note on the check memo line) can you consider it as 2 $1,000 contributions from the 2 of them.

1, 3, & 5 probably work together. Most likely, $1,000 is the maximum contribution, and it is cumulative, including all contributions, in-kind contributions, and cash contributions.

Watch for this stuff. I don’t know about SC, but here in Minnesota they watch this pretty closely. And the Campaign Treasurer is the one who is personally liable for this stuff, and the one who can go to jail over infractions.

I ran for a seat on a local water district back in 1994. Part of the package I received when I filed for the election was a packet from the Secretary of State the spelled out the federal and state campaign finance laws and what I was allowed to do. Considering my total take was a bit over $500 and I supplied about 2/3rds of that, I didn’t come close to violating any laws. I also had to file a campaign finance report within 90 days after the election.