Registering a Candidate Committee
Every candidate in Iowa for state or local office is subject to the campaign finance laws in chapter 68A of the Code of Iowa, which are administered by the Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board.
A candidate is required to register a candidate committee with the Ethics Board if the candidate raises or spends more than $1,000 in a calendar year for the candidate’s election (including the candidate’s own funds). A candidate registers a candidate committee by electronically filing a statement of organization. The statement is due within ten days of crossing the $1,000 threshold. The committee name must include the candidate’s last name.
A candidate committee must identify a treasurer who shall be an Iowa resident and at least eighteen years of age. A candidate may serve as his or her own treasurer. A candidate also has the option to identify a campaign chairperson on the candidate committee’s statement of organization.
A candidate committee must have a separate bank account in the committee’s name unless the candidate committee only receives contributions from the candidate. The bank account must be with a financial institution located in Iowa. Many banks require a candidate committee to have an EIN number, which is obtained from the Internal Revenue Service.
A candidate must update his or her statement of organization within 30 days of any changes to the statement’s information. An amendment to the committee’s statement of organization must be done electronically using the Ethics Board’s web reporting system.
The Treasurer and Candidate's Responsibilities
Every candidate committee shall maintain all committee funds in the committee’s bank account. Any person who receives a contribution for the committee shall give the contribution to the committee’s treasurer within fifteen days of receipt. The treasurer shall deposit all contributions within seven days of receipt by the treasurer.
The treasurer of the committee shall keep a detailed and exact account of:
- All monetary and in-kind contributions
- The name and mailing address of every person making contributions in excess of $25 and the date and the amount of the contribution.
- All disbursements made by the committee
- The name and mailing address of every person or entity to which any expenditure is made, the purpose of the expenditure, the date and amount of the expenditure
- All unpaid debts
- The name and mailing address of every person or entity to which any debt is owed, the purpose of the unpaid debt and the amount of the debt.
- All loans
- The name and mailing address of every person or entity to which any loan is owed, and the amount of the loan.
If a contributor, lender, creditor or payee of a candidate committee is related to the candidate within the third degree of consanguinity or affinitity, then the existence of that person’s family relationship shall be indicated on the disclosure report.
Additionally, the treasurer shall maintain an inventory of all campaign property that has a value $500 or more at the time it is acquired. The campaign property shall continue to be reported as committee inventory until it is disposed of by the committee or until the property has been reported once as having a residual value of less than $100. Consumable campaign property is not required to be reported as committee inventory, regardless of its initial value. Consumable campaign property includes stationary, campaign signs, and other campaign materials that have been permanently imprinted to be specific to a candidate or election. See Iowa Code section 68A.304 for more information on how to dispose of campaign property.
The treasurer and the candidate shall preserve all financial records (e.g. bank statements, copies of checks, PayPal records, receipts) for a period of five years. The five year period shall commence with the due date of the disclosure report covering the activity documents in the records.
Campaign Disclosure Reports
Every candidate committee is required to periodically report its financial activity to the Ethics Board using the Ethics Board’s web reporting system. Reports must be electronically filed by 4:30 p.m. on the due date. Reporting dates vary depending on the type of candidate committee and whether or not it is an election year for the candidate. See the Ethics Board’s brochure on reporting dates for the specific reporting deadlines by type of candidate. A committee is required to file reports even if there is no financial activity during a reporting period until the committee is dissolved.
Committees are responsible for knowing their reporting deadlines. The Ethics Board strives to email every committee a reminder notice prior to every disclosure report filing deadline. However, these notices are merely a courtesy and the failure to receive a reminder notice is no excuse for an untimely report. Please contact the Board's staff if you need assistance determining your disclosure report filing deadlines.
Iowa does not have campaign contribution limits. A candidate may accept monetary and in-kind contributions from individuals, political committees (“PACs”), and any entity that is not a prohibited contributor under section 68A.503 of the Code of Iowa. Prohibited contributors are corporations, banks, credit unions, and insurance companies. A committee must obtain the name and address of every contributor that gives more than $25.
Additionally, a candidate for statewide or legislative office may not accept a contribution from a lobbyist or political committee (“PAC”) on any during the regular legislative session and in the case of a gubernatorial candidate, during the 30 days following the adjournment of a regular legislative session. See Iowa Code section 68A.504 for the exceptions for candidates running for federal office or a special election.
A candidate may only use campaign funds for campaign purposes, educational and other expenses associated with the duties of office or constituency services, and shall not use campaign funds for personal expenses or personal benefit. See Iowa Code section 68A.302, Iowa Administrative Rule 351—4.25 and the Ethics Board’s brochure for specific rules on what are permissible and prohibited contributions.
Debt and Monetary Loans
A candidate may incur debt during the campaign. A candidate committee shall report all debts and obligations owed by the committee at the end of the reporting period. This applies to any unpaid debt or obligations incurred by the committee for the purchase of a good or service, either as a debt or obligation owed to the immediate provider of the good or service, or as a debt or obligation owed to an individual who initially personally paid for the good or service on behalf of the committee with the expectation of ultimately receiving reimbursement from the committee. The date the debt or obligation is incurred is the date on which the committee committed to obtaining the good or service underlying the obligation. This date may be earlier than the date the provider of the good or service issues a bill to the committee. A committee shall estimate the debt if it has does not know what the exact amount of the obligation will be.
Monetary loans to the committee (which are deposited directly into the committee’s bank account) shall be reported as a loan instead of a debt. This distinction is important because a monetary loan affects the ending cash on hand on the committee’s disclosure report.
A “paid for by” attribution statement is required on a candidate’s published material that is designed to expressly advocate the nomination, election or defeat of a candidate. Published material means any newspaper, magazine, shopper, outdoor advertising facility, poster, direct mailing, brochure, internet web site (including social media pages), campaign sign, or any other form of printed general public political advertising. Published material also includes television, video, or motion picture advertising.
An attribution statement is not required on bumper stickers, pins, buttons, pens, political business cards, matchbooks, t-shirts, caps, and other articles of clothing. An attribution statement is also not required on yard signs that are 32 square feet or less in size. However, an attribution statement is required on campaign signs affixed to buildings or vehicles regardless of size, except for bumper stickers.
If a registered candidate committee is responsible for the published material, the attribution statement shall say “paid for by [name of committee.]” If a candidate does not have a registered committee, the candidate shall disclose the name and address of the person responsible for the published material (typically the candidate). Alternatively, the Ethics Board allows a candidate that is below the $1,000 threshold to register a committee name for attribution statement purposes only by electronically filing an SFA form. Once an SFA form has been filed, the candidate may refer to the committee name in the attribution statement.
See Iowa Code section 68A.405 and Iowa Administrative Code rules 351 4.38 and 351.4.39 for more detailed information about attribution statement.
Iowa law specifies where campaign signs are permitted and prohibited. See Iowa Code section 68A.406 or Advisory Opinion 2008-14 for details.
Dissolving a Committee
A candidate committee has a continuing obligation to file periodic disclosure reports until the committee is dissolved by filing a statement of dissolution using the Board’s web reporting system.
A committee shall not dissolve until all loans and debts are paid, forgiven, or transferred, and the remaining funds in the committee’s campaign account are distributed according to Iowa Code sections 68A.302 and 68A.303 and rule 351—4.25. A candidate committee is also required to dispose of all campaign property with a residual value of $100 or more through a sale of the property at fair market value, with proceeds treated as any other campaign funds, or through donation of the property to a charitable organization, a political party, or the general fund of the state or a political subdivision. The candidate committee shall disclose on the committee’s campaign report the manner of disposition.
There are many laws and rules pertaining to a candidate’s campaign activities. We encourage candidates to contact the Board’s staff at (515) 281-4028 with any questions.