Let's get started. Again remember that I am no expert or lawyer. I'm sharing this so that other people can get involved in politics without needing a ton of money.
How to Form a Political Committee
Get your campaign committee EIN number from the IRS. Here is where you will need to choose your committee name. Most candidates use "Friends of _________" as their committee name.
Open your committee's bank account. Call your local courthouse (optional) and ask them which bank they suggest. In my experience the first bank I tried required a signed letter on committee letterhead requesting the account be opened. The second bank didn't require anything, just the EIN number that I obtained in Step 1. I also heard about some banks that refused to put the candidate on the account, only the treasurer was allowed. In my case, as candidate, I was added to the account as "president" of the committee. So your mileage may vary depending on which bank you choose! Each bank seems to write their own rules and requirements internally for this.
Register your Committee
- I used the DSEB-500 form, specifically.
- They have a nice example DSEB-500 with sample information so you can follow it.
- And the corresponding DSEB-501 which allows the committee to collect funds on behalf of the candidate.
For me, since it was a state level election, I had to file the original with Harrisburg and my local county got a copy. Municipal and County elections will file according to their own rules. And if you are campaigning for a federal level position, that's a totally different ballgame: you'll need to register with fec.gov
If you're filing as a nonprofit organization, you'll also need to file IRS form 8871
Track and Report your Finances
Campaign Finance FAQ
Check with Harrisburg / Department of State to determine the reporting deadlines for your election. Typically there is a deadline of 14 days prior to the election that you need to report everything.
PA Campaign Finance Report DSEB-502 (PDF) - page 1 of this report needs to be signed and notarized and submitted to Harrisburg on time. If it's late they charge late fees!
PA Campaign Finance Report DSEB-502 (Online) - the lesson I learned here is that the state requires Page 1 of the PDF form (first link) to be signed and notarized. Then I was unable to upload the rest of the PDF report, I had to type everything manually into the online wizard (second link)
24 Hour Reporting
For the 2 weeks leading up to the election, if you receive any contributions over $500, they need to be reported within 24 hours. I'm not sure why they offer a PDF option here because I'm pretty sure they need to be submitted online.
24 Hour Reporting Form (PDF)
24 Hour Reporting Form (Online)
Termination / Maintenance
If you are running an ongoing campaign, you'll need to file annual tax returns for the EIN number associated with the campaign committee. Then each time there is an election, the above Pre/Post/24-hour reporting applies. You also have the option of terminating the committee if you don't plan on running again for some time, then get a new EIN number if / when the time comes.