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FAQ for Closing out Candidate Campaign Accounts & Opening Constituent Services Accounts

cap winter photo The information below walks candidates through options for surplus campaign funds. The lower section covers compliance details for constituent services accounts. 

All candidates are legally required to follow Montana’s campaign finance laws. To ensure you understand what is required of you, familiarize yourself with 44.11.701, MCA. As always, please contact the office of the Commissioner of Political Practices with questions at (406) 444-2942, email cpphelp@mt.gov, or stop in at the Helena office at 1209 8th Avenue.


Post-Election Options for a Campaign Account

I don’t have any more funds in my campaign bank account; do I need to submit a C-118?

No. If you have paid off all campaign debts and have $0 remaining in your campaign account, you need to simply “close out your campaign” by filing a C-5 financial report in CERS.

What options do I have for my remaining 2018 campaign funds?

 Your options depend on if you plan to have money in your account after November 26th:

1 -If you dispose of all campaign funds by the November 26th C-5 reporting deadline, all transactions can be detailed on the Nov. 26th C-5 report. Your options to dispose of funds by November 26, 2018 are:

a. Return the funds to contributors. These returned contributions would be reported in your November 26th C-5 report as an expenditure. You must include the full name and mailing address of the recipient.

b. Donate the funds to a nonprofit. Report this transaction in your November 26th C-5 report as an expense. 

2 -If you have funds remaining after the November 26, 2018 C-5 report deadline, you can:

a. Donate the funds to a nonprofit. These donations must be reported on a C-118 campaign finance form.

b. If elected, you can establish a constituent services account. This requires you to file a C-118 C form and put the money in a bank account with "constituent services" in the account title. Please note that there are specific legal requirements for a constituent services account. Funds in a constituent services account are restricted to being used for certain activities and require detailed accounting and period reports. See this document for MCA Constituent Services requirements.

I have surplus campaign funds. What do I need to know about filing a C-118 and/or C-118 C form?

Once you've filed a closing campaign finance report, all candidates with surplus funds are required to file either a C-118 form or a C-118 C form (MCA 13-37-240). To know which form to fill out, ask yourself:

1. Do you have surplus campaign funds? If so, you must file a C-118 form.

- Who must file a C-118 form? Following the filing of a closing campaign finance report, all candidates with surplus campaign funds are required to file a Form C-118, pursuant to Montana Code Annotated § 13-37-240.

- Required information to report: In the C-118 form, you must report any spent campaign finance funds, and include copies of receipts to show how you've spent funds (pursuant to Montana Administrative Rule 44.11.702).
For example, if you choose to donate your campaign funds to a nonprofit, you must have proof of this transaction.

- When must a C-118 form be filed? Within 120 days of filing a closing campaign finance report, a candidate must dispose of surplus campaign funds.  Form C-118 must be filed by a candidate within 135 days after a closing report is filed. 

2. Do you plan to open a constituent services account? If so, you must file a C-118 C form. You will need to include a copy of the transaction where you've moved money from a campaign account to a constituent services account. The C-118 C form must be filed with 135 days after you've filed a closing campaign report. Any candidate who opens a constituent services account is required to file C-8 reports (see the Constituent Services Accounts dropdown tabs below for more detail).

3. How can I file my C-118 and C-118 C forms? The candidate must retain one copy for their records, and file a copy with the COPP by:

  1. 1. Emailing the scanned C-118 form to cppcompliance@mt.gov,
  2. 2. Mailing the form to PO Box 202401, Helena MT 59620-2401, or
  3. 3. Faxing the form to 406-444-1643 (We advise emailing or calling 444-4942 to ensure your fax was sent through), and
  4. 4. Delivering a hard copy of the form(s) in person to the COPP's office at 1209 8th Avenue (one block north of the capitol).

How long do I have to decide what to do with surplus campaign money?

You must dispose of the funds within 120 days after you’ve filed your C-5 campaign finance report and file either a C-118 or C-118 C report (See questions below for more details).

Can I give my campaign's surplus money to another campaign?

No. You cannot give your surplus money to another campaign, including a future campaign. 

I will donate my surplus campaign funds to a nonprofit AFTER November 26, 2018. When must a C-118 be filed?

A C-118 hard copy form must be filed with the Commissioner of Political Practices within 120 after your C-5 report is filed. For example, if you file your C-5 report on November 26, 2018, you must then file your C-118 by March 26, 2019 (120 days later). The C-118 must be emailed to cppcompliance@mt.gov, faxed to 406-444-1643, or mailed to P.O. Box 202401 (Helena, MT, 59620-2401).

I still owe payment on debts and loans made during the campaign. Can I keep my campaign account open beyond November 26th while I make payments on these obligations?

Yes. If the campaign has outstanding debts or loans, the campaign may be kept open until these obligations are paid. Contributions may still be accepted by the candidate, but these contributions may be used ONLY to help pay off the obligations owed by the campaign.

What do I need to report if I need to pay myself back for a campaign loan?

First, the loan must have already been reported as a loan in a previous C-5 report. Once you pay yourself from your campaign bank account, this amount must be reported in the “Payments” section. Once you’ve paid off all debts and loans, your campaign bank account can then be closed.

If you made a personal loan to your campaign, you also have the option to forgive the amount of your personal loan (and not pay yourself back). If you choose this option, please email cppcompliance@mt.gov and note: 1) your campaign name (E.g. Johnson for HD 15, 2018) and 2) the amount of the forgiven loan.

How long can I keep a campaign account open? And how do I report if I don't close the account?

There’s no requirement that a campaign account be closed within a specific time-frame or by a certain date. The statute says a “closing report shall be filed following an election whenever all debts and obligations are extinguished and no further contributions or expenditures will be received or made which relate to the campaign. . . ” (13-37-228(3), MCA.)

Can I keep a balance in my campaign bank account in order to keep the account open for future campaigns?

Yes. You will need to zero out your account, report to the COPP that the account has been emptied, and then add any personal funds necessary to keep the account open. This amount would be reported in your next campaign’s initial C-5 report as a contribution.

What is a constituent services account?

A constituent services account is an account that can be established by an elected candidate to pay for constituent services (MCA 13-37-229) . A constituent services account may be established by filing an appropriate form with the commissioner. A successful candidate may deposit only surplus campaign funds in a constituent services account.

The 2007 legislation formalized restrictions on spending these funds, and strictly limited what money can be placed in the account. Detailed reporting requirements were added. Rules were completed in September 2008 following a comment period and hearing. Legislation passed in 2009 (HB 622) requires that “pre-existing accounts” be promptly closed. It also expanded the list of eligible elected officials to include certain local officials. (Those who are required to disclose campaign contributions and expenditures under Sections 13-37-229 and 230, MCA are now eligible to hold a constituent services account.) 

The money in the account may be used only for constituent services. The money in the account may not be used for personal benefit. Expenditures from a constituent services account may not be made when the holder of the constituent services account also has an open campaign account.

A person described in MCA 13-37-402 subsection (1) may not establish any account related to the public official's office other than a constituent services account. This subsection does not prohibit a person from establishing a campaign account.

The holder of a constituent services account shall file a quarterly report with the commissioner, by a date established by the commissioner by rule. The report must disclose the source of all money deposited in the account and enumerate expenditures from the account. The report must include the same information as required for a candidate required to report under 13-37-229. The report must be certified as provided in 13-37-231.

The holder of a constituent services account shall close the account within 120 days after the account holder leaves public office.

***See the below section for more details on constituent services accounts.***

How long can I keep a campaign account open and how do I report if I don't close the account?

There’s no requirement that a campaign account be closed within a specific time-frame or by a certain date. The statute says a “closing report shall be filed following an election whenever all debts and obligations are extinguished and no further contributions or expenditures will be received or made which relate to the campaign. . . ” (13-37-228(3), MCA.)

 

Constituent Services Accounts

A constituent services account is an account that can be established by an elected candidate to pay for constituent services (MCA 13-37-229). A constituent services account may be established by filing an appropriate form (a C-118 C) with the commissioner. A successful candidate may deposit only surplus campaign funds in a constituent services account.

1. What is a constituent services account?

A constituent services account is an account that can be established to pay for constituent services by a successful candidate required to report under 13-37-229. A constituent services account may be established by filing an appropriate form with the commissioner. A successful candidate may deposit only surplus campaign funds in a constituent services account.

The 2007 legislation formalized restrictions on spending these funds, and strictly limited what money can be placed in the account. Detailed reporting requirements were added. Rules were completed in September 2008 following a comment period and hearing. Legislation passed in 2009 (HB 622) requires that “pre-existing accounts” be promptly closed. It also expanded the list of eligible elected officials to include certain local officials. (Those who are required to disclose campaign contributions and expenditures under Sections 13-37-229 and 230, MCA are now eligible to hold a constituent services account.) 

The money in the account may be used only for constituent services. The money in the account may not be used for personal benefit. Expenditures from a constituent services account may not be made when the holder of the constituent services account also has an open campaign account.

A person described in MCA 13-37-402 subsection (1) may not establish any account related to the public official's office other than a constituent services account. This subsection does not prohibit a person from establishing a campaign account.

The holder of a constituent services account shall file a quarterly report with the commissioner, by a date established by the commissioner by rule. The report must disclose the source of all money deposited in the account and enumerate expenditures from the account. The report must include the same information as required for a candidate required to report under 13-37-229. The report must be certified as provided in 13-37-231.

The holder of a constituent services account shall close the account within 120 days after the account holder leaves public office.

2. Can I use the same bank account for my campaign account and my constituent services account, or do I have to open a new account?

Separate accounts are encouraged to simplify accounting. However, some candidates choose to use their existing campaign accounts and just change the name on the account. 
 
If you use your existing account, supporting documentation must accompany the Form C-118C. It must include proof of the name change and verification of the amount remaining in the account -- the remaining balance in a closing report for the campaign account must be the same as the opening balance in the constituent services account.

3. I understand that if I open a constituent services account, I must file a C-118 C. When and how do I need to file this form?

When must a C-118C be filed? Within 120 days of filing a closing campaign finance report, a candidate must dispose of surplus campaign funds. Form C-118 must be filed by a candidate within 135 days after a closing report is filed. 
 
What information must be reported when a C-118C is filed? Pursuant to 13-37-240, MCA, the candidate shall disclose the establishment of a constituent services account. The Form C-118C shall be accompanied by a copy of the transaction between the campaign account and the constituent account.
A bank statement showing the transaction satisfies this requirement. 

How do I file a C-118C?

A C-118C form must both be filed with the Commissioner of Political Practices. The forms can be filed by:
          1- Emailing the scanned C-118 form to cppcompliance@mt.gov,
          2- Mailing the form to PO Box 202401, Helena MT 59620-2401, or
          3- Faxing the form to 406-444-1643 (We advise emailing or calling 444-4942 to ensure your fax was sent through), and
          4- Delivering a hard copy of the form(s) in person to the COPP's office at 1209 8th Avenue (one block north of the capitol).

This form is not submitted through the CERS system. Once a constituent services account is established, regular C-8 reports are required.

A constituent services account must be closed within 120 days after the account holder leaves public office.

4. C-8 Reports: What must be reported? When are they due? And how do I file my report?

A candidate must disclose the details of their constituent services account with quarterly C-8 reports until the account is closed. 

  • 1- Reports must include all expenditures made and interest accrued through the end of the calendar quarter on which the quarterly report is due.
  • 2- All expenditures from a constituent services account must be supported by a written log kept by the candidate or their treasurer. The log must document at least one constituent on whose behalf the constituent services were provided (See 44.11.709 (4) (b), ARM, page 106). This requirement is in keeping with the directive in 13-37-401 and 13-37-402, MCA, that funds only be used for constituent services ("to represent and serve constituents"). The log is to be kept as part of your records -- it's not part of the quarterly reporting.

If you have a constituent services account, you must file a C-8 report on these dates:

  1. 1. January 10, 2019
  2. 2. April 10, 2019
  3. 3. July 10, 2019
  4. 4. October 10, 2019

C-8 and C-118C forms must be filed by sending a digital or hard copy either via email (cppcompliance@mt.gov), fax (406-444-1643), mail (PO Box 202401, Helena, MT, 59620-2401), or hand delivered (1209 8th Avenue, Helena, Montana).

- C-8 form
- C-118C form

5. Are travel expenses reimbursable using constituent services account funds?

You may be reimbursed for travel, meal and lodging expenses incurred to provide constituent services (at the rates and reimbursements levels adopted by the Department of Administration). A member of your immediate family may not, however, use your constituent services account for their benefit (See 44.11.107(1)(b) and 44.11.107(2)(c) ARM).
 

6. Can an immediate family member run errands for an eligible elected official and be reimbursed for mileage?

Yes. However, compensation or any other payment to an elected official's immediate family member for time spent or services rendered to provide constituent services is prohibited.

7. What are acceptable expenditures from a constituent services account?

They’re listed in 44.11.107, ARM (beginning on page 102). The list is extensive, so it’s not reproduced here.

8. Can I use constituent account funds to purchase electronic devices such as laptops, cell phones, etc?

Remember that expenditures must be made strictly for services to constituents. Personal use of campaign funds (in this instance, funds now converted to constituent services) is strictly prohibited (See 13-37-240, MCA). If the device will be used to any extent for personal or business use, then only the constituent services portion can be paid with these funds. 
 
When you leave public office, any office supply or equipment purchased with campaign/constituent services account funds that has some remaining value must be donated to charity, or purchased at fair market value with the proceeds donated to charity. (See 44.11.707(3) and (4), ARM.) 
 

9. Can I use constituent services account funds to attend a political party (e.g., central committee) event?

No. Constituent services account funds may not be used to pay for direct or indirect expenses related to attendance at a meeting, fundraiser, or gathering at which contributions will be solicited or received by any person, including a political party, political party committee, candidate, or person or committee supporting or opposing a candidate or ballot issue. (See 44.11.706, ARM.) 
 
Political Party Committees are generally established to support or oppose candidates and/or ballot issues; therefore, it’s likely solicitation for or receipt of contributions will occur at such gatherings. In addition, a constituent services account must be used to represent and serve constituents. It is unlikely that attending a political party event would qualify as a constituent service.

10. I'd like to an out-of-state NCSL workshop. Can I use constituent services funds to pay for the workshop and travel expenses?

Payment of expenses related to education, workshops, and conference participation that are incurred to represent and serve constituents is authorized. (See 44.11.707 (1) (g), ARM).

11. How long can I keep my constituent services account open? What happens when I leave office?

You must close a constituent services account within 120 days after leaving public office (as defined in 44.11.711 (1), ARM).

Surplus constituent services funds may be donated to any organization or entity, so long as the use of the funds will not violate the personal benefit or campaign contribution prohibitions of 13-37-240 and 13-37-402, MCA, and 44.11.711 (2) ARM.

 

12. I am going to run for office again. Can I use my previously-established constituent services account?

First, remember that no money from a constituent account can be used for any campaign activity, whether for your campaign or another person's campaign; The money in the account may be used only for constituent services. The money in the account may not be used for personal benefit. Expenditures from a constituent services account may not be made when the holder of the constituent services account also has an open campaign account (See MCA  13-37-240 and MCA 13-37-402).

With that understanding:

- If you are running for the 1) same office and 2) in the same district, you do not need to create a new constituent services account and can re-use your previous account information once you are re-elected.

- If you are running for 1) a new office or 2) in another district, you cannot use a previous constituent services account and will need to create a new constituent services account.

13. How long am I required to keep my constituent services account records?

All records and reports filed must be maintained for 4 years after the constituent services account is closed.