The Great Seal of the State of Montana

Guide to Register as a Candidate

 

1. I will be a 2019 or 2020 candidate. How do I file as a candidate?

All candidates except for some school election candidates must file a Statement of Candidate with the COPP. You will file either a C-1 or C-1A Statement of Candidate form based on what office you are running for:

Statewide or state district candidates (legislature, district court judge, and public service commission):

  • You are required to file a C-1 Statement of Candidate form in the user-friendly Candidate Electronic Reporting System (CERS).
    • - Form C-1 must be filed within five days after receiving or spending money, appointing a campaign treasurer, or filing for office (whichever comes first).
    • - Reference this C-1 PDF to see what must be reported in a C-1 form.
    • - Reference this Candidate Guide to Navigating CERS to create a CERS account and file your C-1 Statement of Candidate (See Part 1).
  • You are also required to file a D-1 Business Disclosure Statement form within five days of filing for office. Reference this D-1 Business Disclosure Guide to file a D-1 Business Disclosure form.

County and Municipal Candidates:

  • You are required to file a Statement of Candidate C-1A form.
    • - A C-1A form must be filed within five days after receiving or spending money, appointing a campaign treasurer, or filing for office, whichever occurs first.
    • - File a C-1A form with the COPP's office by :1) filing electronically in the user-friendly CERS system (Reference this guide), 2) mailing a completed hardcopy C-1A to the COPP at PO BOX 202401, Helena, MT 59620-2401, 3) emailing a scanned copy to cppcompliance@mt.gov, or 4) faxing a completed hardcopy C-1A to 406-444-1643.
    • Please note that form C-1A is only considered complete when the candidate lists a campaign treasurer and provides the name and address for the campaign depository (bank). Candidates for these offices will also want to speak with their county elections administrator to see if any local registration requirements apply.

Local School Election Candidates:

  • If you are running for a local school election position,all candidates will need to register with their school district. Not all candidates (based on their school district) will need to register with the COPP. Reference this PDF (sorted by county) to see a list of schools whose candidates must register with the COPP by filing a C-1A form.
    • - A C-1A form must be filed within five days after receiving or spending money, appointing a campaign treasurer, or filing for office, whichever occurs first.
    • - File a C-1A form with the COPP's office by :1) filing electronically in the user-friendly CERS system (Reference this guide), 2) mailing a completed hardcopy C-1A to the COPP at PO BOX 202401, Helena, MT 59620-2401, 3) emailing a scanned copy to cppcompliance@mt.gov, or 4) faxing a completed hardcopy C-1A to 406-444-1643.
    • Please note that form C-1A is only considered complete when the candidate lists a campaign treasurer and provides the name and address for the campaign depository (bank). Candidates for these offices will also want to speak with their county elections administrator to see if any local registration requirements apply.

But I won't be receiving or spending any money on campaign activity. Do I still need to file a Statement of Candidate?

Yes. All candidates, regardless of intended financial activity, must file form C-1A with the COPP. Similarly, the Treasurer and bank information are required portions of that document. Please note that the COPP only requires the name and address of the bank- account numbers, routing numbers, etc. are NOT REQUIRED!

Pro tip: if you do not intend on raising or expending money as part of your campaign, list yourself as the treasurer, and the name and address of your personal bank for the campaign depository information.

2. I am not certain what office I will run for and am considering filing an exploratory option. How do I do this?

1) You are required to file a Statement of Candidate as an exploratory candidate. Every candidate has the option to file using the user-friendly CERS system (reference this guide).

  • 1- Statewide or state district candidates: Candidates for statewide or state district offices are required to file a C-1 Statement of Candidate using the CERS system.
  • 2- County or municipal candidates: Candidates for municipal and county offices can file a C-1A Candidate Statement form with the COPP's office by: 1) filing electronically in the user-friendly CERS system (Reference this guide), 2) mailing a completed hardcopy C-1A to the COPP at PO BOX 202401, Helena, MT 59620-2401, 3) emailing a scanned copy to cppcompliance@mt.gov, or 4) faxing a completed hardcopy C-1A to 406-444-1643.
  • 3- Local school election candidates: If you are running for a local school election position, all candidates will need to register with their school district. Not all candidates (based on their school district) will need to register with the COPP. Reference this PDF (sorted by county) to see a list of schools whose candidates must register with the COPP by filing a C-1A form.
    • - File a C-1A form with the COPP's office by: 1) filing electronically in the user-friendly CERS system (Reference this guide), 2) mailing a completed hardcopy C-1A to the COPP at PO BOX 202401, Helena, MT 59620-2401, 3) emailing a scanned copy to cppcompliance@mt.gov, or 4) faxing a completed hardcopy C-1A to 406-444-1643.

2) How do I file as an exploratory candidate in the CERS system?

Follow the steps in this guide.  When you get to Step 3 (page 4), you must select a campaign type. Your options are 1) City 2) County, 3) School, 4) State District, or 5) Statewide. Once you’ve selected your campaign type, and after you begin entering in your information in the Candidate Information section, you can specify that you are running an Exploratory campaign under the dropdown options for “Office Sought” (see image below).

3) How do I file as an exploratory candidate using a hardcopy C-1 or C-1A form?

You can designate yourself as an exploratory candidate on a C-1 or C-1A form by entering “exploratory candidate” in the section that says “complete description of office sought.”

4) What campaign finance requirements must I comply with as an exploratory candidate?

- Campaign finance reporting: You are required to follow the same campaign finance laws and requirements as all other candidates (see details at this link).  If a county, city, or school candidate’s campaign meets or exceeds $500.00 in combined expenditures (expenses) and contribution activity—meaning that the total sum of contributions (including personal contributions) received by the campaign plus expenditures made is $500.00 or more—that candidate is required to file periodic C-5 campaign finance reports with the COPP. County, city, and school candidates who do not meet or exceed the $500.00 threshold during the duration of their campaign are not required to file C-5 financial reports. All candidates for statewide or state district offices are required to file periodic campaign financial reports regardless of actual expenditure or contribution activity.

- Contribution limits: Based on the designated “class” of offices you are considering (Statewide, state district, county or municipal, or school), you may only accept the lowest amount based on the class you file for as an exploratory candidate. Reference this PDF to see contribution limits. For example, if you are considering a run either for secretary of state or for governor, you are an exploratory candidate for a statewide office. The applicable contribution limits for your candidacy would be $340 per individual per election, $340 per political action committee per election, and  $8,850 from a political party per election; these limits are the lowest numbers for a statewide candidate. 

5) What do I need to do once I decide which specific office I will run for?

1- You will need to file an amended Statement of Candidate form that designates the specific office you are seeking.
2- Once you have completely filed an amended report, you will be eligible for the campaign contributions based on the specific office you are running for.

 

 

3. What do I need to disclose on a Statement of Candidate form?

 

WHAT INFORMATION IS TO BE REPORTED?

Pursuant to Montana Code Annotated 13-37-201, 13-37-202, and 13-37-205, the following information is required to be reported:

  • - full name and complete mailing address of the treasurer;
  • - full name and complete mailing address of any deputy treasurer; and
  • - full name and complete address of the depository in which the campaign account is located.

PLEASE NOTE:

  • 1)  A candidate may appoint himself or herself as the campaign treasurer or deputy treasurer. Such an appointment subsequently may be changed by filing an amended Form C-1 or C-1A.
  • 2)  The treasurer of a candidate’s campaign is responsible for keeping detailed accounts of all contributions received and expenditures made by the campaign. The treasurer of a candidate’s campaign is the individual to whom correspondence and notices will be sent unless the commissioner’s office is otherwise directed.
  • 3)  Funds collected during a contested primary that are meant for general election contributions must be maintained in a separate account. Primary and general campaign funds must be managed in separate accounts.
  • 4)  Are you filing a C-1A Form? A separate bank account must be established for a campaign in which any funds, including the candidate’s personal funds, will be received or spent, that is, if Box B or C is checked on the Affidavit of Reporting Status on Form C-1A.
    • In accordance with 44.11.304(2)Administrative Rules of Montana, if Box B has been checked and more than $500 subsequently is received and/or expended, an initial financial report (Form C-5)   must be filed within five days of exceeding $500 and financial reports must be filed according to schedule.
  • 5) Pro tip: if you do not intend on raising or spending money as part of your campaign, list yourself as the treasurer, and the name and address of your personal bank for the campaign depository information.

4. What is the differce between the "B" and "C" box on the C-1A form?

When filling out the C-1A, it asks me to indicate if I am a ‘B’ or ‘C’ box candidate. What is the difference between a 'B' and 'C' box candidate?

 

On the C-1A Statement of Candidate, the candidate must indicate if they are a ‘B’ or ‘C’ box candidate. 'B' box candidates "certify that I expect the total amount of contributions or expenditures will not exceed $500 (including personal funds)" for their campaign and are not required to file C-5 campaign finance reports with our office. Simply put, candidates can maintain 'B' box status and remain exempt from campaign finance reporting requirements if the combination of contributions received by the campaign and expenditures made does not exceed $500.

 

'C' box candidates certify that "I expect to receive contributions and/or make expenditures exceeding $500 (including personal funds)" and therefore must file C-5 campaign finance reports on the appropriate schedule. So, if the candidate’s combination of contributions received and expenditures made exceeds $500, that candidate would be a ‘C’ box candidate and would need to file C-5 campaign financial reports according to schedule. If a 'B' box candidate exceeds $500 in expenditure and contribution activity, they will need to file an amended C-1A Statement of Candidate indicating they are now a 'C' box candidate and file an initial C-5 report within 5 days of exceeding the $500 threshold. Please note that personal funds are included in the $500 threshold, as is the filing fee.

5. I will file my C-1 or C-1A Form using the CERS system. How do I do that?

Candidates who wish to file their C-1 or C-1A Statement of Candidate  using the CERS system should reference the Guide to Filing a Candidate Statement in CERS. This step-by-step guide is relevant for candidates who previously registered in CERS and also for new candidates.

6. As a candidate, what are my legally-required financial reporting requirements?

WHO IS REQUIRED TO FILE C-5 REPORTS?

If a candidate’s campaign meets or exceeds $500.00 in combined expenditures (expenses) and contribution activity—meaning that the total sum of contributions (including personal contributions) received by the campaign plus expenditures made is $500.00 or more—the candidate is required to file periodic C-5 campaign finance reports with the COPP. Candidates who do not meet or exceed the $500.00 threshold during the duration of their campaign are not required to file C-5 financial reports.

Pursuant to Montana Code Annotated § 13-37-225, each candidate for statewide and state district offices shall account for all contributions received and expenditures made by or on behalf of the candidate by filing periodic reports.  A report must be filed even if no money has been received or expended.

Each candidate for county, municipal, and class one school district trustee offices are required to file periodic reports if contributions received, including personal funds, exceed $500 or if expenditures exceed $500.

C-5 Reports must be regularly reported. See this Reporting Calendars page to know when you must file C-5 reports in CERS. Reference MCA 13-37 for all campaign finance information, including report filing timelines (13-37-226), time periods covered by reports (13-37-228), and disclosure requirements (13-37-229).

 

WHEN ARE C-5 REPORTS DUE?

Candidates are responsible for familiarizing themselves with the legal requirements in the Montana Code Annotated. Candidates can use the MCA to determine report dates using Montana Code Annotated §13-37-226(2)).

STATEWIDE and STATE DISTRICT CANDIDATES:

*2020 candidates have quarterly C-5 reports due. See report dates on the COPP's Reporting Calendars page.
*If you were a 2018 candidate and have a 2018 campaign account open, you have C-5 reports due. See the Reporting Calendars page for specific report dates and information on C-8 reports for constituent services accounts.

MUNICIPAL OR COUNTY CANDIDATES:

*Municipal or county candidates must file according to the city calendar.
*City candidates have C-5 reports due based on the COPP's Reporting Calendars page.

 CANDIDATES FOR SCHOOL OFFICES:

* Candidates for school elected offices must file reports according to the school calendar. These calendars are available on the Reporting Calendars Page.

7. How do I need to pay and report my candidate filing fee?

A candidate’s filing fee is a mandatory expense to report in a C-5 Form. This can be paid either out of the candidate’s account, reported as an in-kind candidate contribution (if the candidate does not want to be reimbursed for the expense) or as a candidate loan (if the candidate wants to be reimbursed for the expense).  If the candidate has already registered as a candidate with the COPP and accepted contributions, they can use these contributions to pay for the filing fee.

Filing fees are not paid to the Office of Political Practices. If you are running for a statewide office or state district office, your filing fee will be handled by the Secretary of State (see more information here). If you are running for a county office, you will pay your filing fee to your county. 

No fees are charged to file your Statement of Candidacy and any campaign finance reports with the COPP.

8. When am I required to file C-5 campaign financial reports?

Candidates for school elected offices must file reports according to the school calendar. Municipal or county candidates must file according to the city calendar. These calendars are available on the COPP website at the Reporting Calendars section.

As always, candidates should reference MCA 13-37 for all campaign finance information, including report filing timelines (13-37-226), time periods covered by reports (13-37-228), and disclosure requirements (13-37-229). 

9. What laws do I need to be familiar with?

Familiarize yourself with MCA 13-37 for all campaign finance information, including:

- Report filing timelines (13-37-226),
- Time periods covered by reports (13-37-228), and
- Disclosure requirements (13-37-229)

Will you be buying campaign-related communications? Know what is legally required for attribution (Attribution guide) and for reporting (Paid Communications 101 Guide).

 

 

 

10. What's an EIN, and how do I get one?

An EIN (Employer Identification Number) is a banking requirement and not a COPP requirement. Montana banks now require an EIN number, and the COPP requires that all campaigns use a bank located in Montana. The COPP does not give nor need your campaign's EIN (Employer Identification Number). That said, we get quite a few questions about EINs.

A candidate must apply for an EIN through the IRS. You can find more EIN application info at the IRS' website.