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Candidate and Committee Information

The Office of Political Practices is committed to promoting confidence, transparency, and accountability in Montana’s democratic process by making sure Montanans can follow the money that finances and influences local elections and the legislature. To ensure this is possible, the COPP office provides the educational outreach and materials for candidates and committees. We update this page regularly; make sure to check back often to dig into the freshest info on laws, data, and best practices for campaign finance and ethics in Montana! 


Candidate Campaign Finance Information

Campaign Finance Laws

Campaign Finance and Practices
ARM Administrative Rules of the COPP, Title 44, Chapter 11: Campaign Finance & Ethics RulesConstituent Services Account Rules 
MCA: Title 13. Elections
     Chapter 1. General Provisions
     Chapter 35. Election and Campaign Practices and Criminal Provisions
     Chapter 37. Control of Campaign Practices 

Ethics
MCA Title 2. Government Structure and Administration: Chapter 2. Standards of Conduct
ARM: Title 44, Chapter 10:
Code of Ethics Rules and Guidelines

Lobbying 
MCA: Title 5. Legislative Branch: Chapter 7. Lobbying
ARM: Title 44, Chapter 12: Lobbying Rules 

 

Campaign Finance Training: July 18, 2019

The COPP will be holding a campaign finance compliance webinar training on July 18th from 12-1:00 p.m.

This meeting is geared specifically for city candidates. It may be applicable to other candidates who are looking for a basic campaign finance 101 orientation. The training will be recorded for your later reference, and will cover the following campaign finance basics:

 

  1. Campaign finance reports (What reports to file, when, and what to disclose),
  2. Important dates for city candidates,
  3. Tips, and
  4. Resources.

To join the meeting, plan at least five minutes complete the steps that are required to enter into the digital meeting. To start, click this Join Skype Meeting  link to join the meeting. PLEASE NOTE that you will need to click the “Install and Join with Skype Meeting App.” This requires you to install the Skype app. Follow the pop-up steps to connect to the meeting.

 

Understand the Campaign Finance Process

Guide to Candidate Campaign Finance Forms

CANDIDATE CAMPAIGN FINANCE FORMS

The following is a list of report forms available to candidates from the Office of the Commissioner of Political Practices and a brief description of what each form is and where and when the form must be filed (available as a PDF):

 

-C-1 Statement of Candidate (C-1 guide and paper copy): Form C-1 is the Statement of Candidate form that candidates for statewide or state district offices(House, Senate, Public Service Commission, and District Judges) must file. Form C-1 must be filed within five days after receiving or spending money, appointing a campaign treasurer, or filing for office, whichever occurs first. Before filing a Statement of Candidate, make sure to reference this Candidate Registration Guide for details about filing in CERS, paying your candidate filing fee, and more!  A C-1 Statement of Candidate can be filed in the CERS system.

 

-C-1A Statement of Candidate (C-1A guide and paper copy): Form C-1A is the Statement of Candidate for county, municipal, or school candidates. All county and municipal candidates must file form C-1A; all candidates campaigning for school trustee offices in first-class districts located in counties with populations of 15,000 and more or in county high school districts having student enrollments of 2,000 or more must file a Form C-1A. Form C-1A must be filed within five (5) days after receiving or spending money, appointing a campaign treasurer, or filing for office, whichever occurs first. Candidates for these offices must designate themselves either a 'B' box candidate (less than $500 will be cumulatively raised and spent), or a 'C' box candidate (more than $500 raised/spent). Before filing a Statement of Candidate, make sure to reference this Candidate Registration Guide for details about filing in CERS, paying your candidate filing fee, and more! A C-1A Statement of Candidate can be filed in the CERS system.
 
 

-C-3 Code of Fair Campaign Practices (C-3 guide and paper copy): Form C-3 is the Code of Fair Campaign Practices. Candidates may sign and return the C-3 to the COPP at any time, but it is a voluntary form and is not required. A C-3 can be filed in the CERS system.

 

-C-5 Candidate Campaign Finance Report (C-5 instructions, PDF paper copy, Excel Form C-5): Form C-5 is the candidate campaign finance reporting form and must be filed by all candidates who have filed a Cl running for statewide or state district office as well as all county, municipal, and school candidates that have designated themselves 'C' box candidates on the C-lA. The CS reports must detail all contributions received and expenditures made by a campaign during a specific timeframe. C5s are filed periodically according to the reporting calendar, which varies according to office sought and election date. See the Reporting Calendars page. Candidates will file form C-5 in the CERS system.

 

-C-7 Notice of Pre-Election Contributions (C-7 guide and paper copy): Form C-7 is the Notice of Pre-Elections Contributions and must be filed by:

  • - any statewide candidate who receives $200 or more from a single source between the 20th day before an election and the date of the election;
  • - any other candidate or political committee when $100 or more is received from a single source between the 17th day before an election and the date of the election. File form C-7 in the CERS system.

The timeframe for C-7's to be filed is as follows:

  • - Statewide candidates must file within 24 hours after receipt of a contribution of $200 or more.
  • - All other candidates or political committees must file within 48 hours after receipt of a contribution of $100 or more.

-C-8 Constituent Services Reporting Form: Form C-8 is the Constituent Services Reporting form, where any expenses made from an established constituent services account must be reported (learn more about constituent services accounts here). C-8 reports are to be filed quarterly with the COPP and are established by filing form C-118C (please see below).C-8 forms must be filed by sending a digital or hard copy C-8 form 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-118 Disposition of Surplus Campaign Funds: Form C-118 is the Disposition of Surplus Campaign Funds and is the form that details or documents how candidates for public office who filed C-5 campaign finance reports disposed of any and all surplus campaign funds. Within 120 days of filing a closing CS campaign finance report, a candidate must dispose of surplus campaign funds; form C-118 must be filed by a candidate within 135 days after the closing CS is filed. C-118 forms must be filed 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-118C Establishing a Constituent Services Account (C-118C instructions and form): Form C-118C is the form that allows an official who has been elected to public office to create a constituent services account (please see this guide for more information on constituent services accounts). Following the filing of a closing campaign finance report, all candidates with surplus campaign funds are required to file either a Form C-118 or C-118C, pursuant to Montana Code Annotated § 13-37-240. A candidate that has been elected and has chosen to open a constituent services account must file a Form C-118C.C-118C forms must be filed 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).

 

-D-1 Business Disclosure Statement (D-1 form and guide): Form D-1 is the Business Disclosure Statement and must be filed by:

- statewide or state district elected officials;
- candidates for statewide or state district offices;
- department directors; and
- any individual appointed to fill any of these positions.

The dates by which form D-l must be filed are:

  • - Statewide or state district elected officials or department directors: prior to December 15 of each even-numbered year;
  • - Candidates for statewide or state district offices: within five (5) days of the time the candidate files for office (with the Secretary of State); and
  • - Individual appointed to any of the above offices: at the earlier of the time of submission of the person's name for confirmation or the assumption of office. 

INSPECTION AND EXAM PROCESS OF CAMPAIGN FINANCE FORMS

 

Montana campaign finance laws protect the public’s right to know who is paying to finance elections and how money is spent by campaigns. Candidates and committees ensure transparency in Montana’s democratic processes by periodically filing legally-required campaign finance information as campaign finance reports (C-4, C-5, C-6, C-7, and C-7E forms).

The COPP is mandated to review all candidate and committee financial reports (13-37-121[1], Montana Code Annotated). Once a campaign finance report is filed, the COPP inspects each report and sends the candidate or committee an Inspection Report.

The Inspection Report identifies any issues that the candidate or committee must address in their campaign finance reports in order to comply with Montana law. For example, an Inspection Report will alert candidates to items that require additional detail or information, items that may not be reported in the correct place or manner, or other potential issues. Click here to see a sample Inspection Report.

It is the responsibility of each candidate and committee to amend financial reports to ensure their compliance with Montana’s campaign finance laws. To learn more about the COPP's inspection and exam process, click here.

Campaign Finance Resources, Guides, and Graphics

To best comply with campaign finance requirements, make sure to reference and familiarize yourself with the Montana Campaign Finance and Practices Laws (Blue Book) and the Accounting and Reporting Manual for Candidates (Green Book).

Filing as a Candidate

- Getting Started: Guide to Registering as a Candidate (With details about filing, exploratory campaigns, reporting a filing fee, and more!)
- Step-by-Step Guide to Filing a C-1 or C-1A Statement of Candidate in CERS (NEW!)

Contributions

- Contribution Limits, Graphic for Contribution Limits Per Election
- Reporting Fundraising Contributions
- Political Raffles

- Report a Self-Loan to a Candidate Campaign Account

Expenditures

Campaign Communications

Montana law requires that all election communications, electioneering communications, and independent expenditures include an attribution disclosing who the communication is funded by, and contact information for the source (Mont. Code Ann. § 13-35-225).  The Commissioner will enforce the requirements of the attribution laws on all political communications including text messages.

Campaign Finance Graphics


Paid Communications (PDF)

 

Contribution Limits Per Election (PDF)

Reporting Social Media (PDF)

Sample Candidate Campaign

Sample Campaign

This sample campaign is designed for training purposes only. The CERS database system, which is where campaign finance reports are filed by candidates and committees, will be updated during the fall of 2019. Training guides will be updated to reflect the latest version of CERS.

- Candidate J. Coffee for Commissioner
 

 

Reporting Due Dates and Event Calendar

NOTE: Reporting dates for candidates and committees may change during the 2019 legislative session. This page will be updated to reflect the most up-to-date information.

Report calendars are available on this Reporting Calendars page:

  • - 2018 Candidate Report Dates
  • - 2019-2020 Lobbying Report Dates
  • - 2019 City Candidate Report Dates
  • - 2020 Candidates C-5 Report Dates
  • - School Candidate Report Dates
  • - Committee Report Dates

 

Navigate the CERS Campaign Finance System

The Campaign Electronic Reporting System (CERS) is a publicly accessible database where candidates and committees report the money they receive and spend to promote and oppose candidates and other ballot issues. To access the database to file a campaign finance report or search filed reports, click here

Reporting through CERS is required for: 

- Statewide candidate campaigns,  
- State district candidates (legislature, district court judge, and public service commission), 
- and all political committees.

CERS resources

- Step-by-Step Guide to Filing a C-1 or C-1A Statement of Candidate in CERS (New!), or Numbered Guide of Filing in CERS (with screenshots at the bottom)
- CERS 101: Simple Guidance
- CERS candidate PowerPoint

Complaint Information

COMPLAINT PROCESS, DECISIONS, DOCKET, AND PUBLIC INFORMATION

The COPP manages complaints concerning campaigns, lobbying, and ethics. The Commissioner has final determination as to whether a submitted complaint is accepted for filing. If accepted, the COPP conducts an investigation for campaign and lobbying complaints.  Please keep in mind that all accepted campaign and lobbying complaints are made public immediately upon acceptance. Investigations are not conducted for ethics complaints. Accepted ethics complaints filed against elected officials will also be made public immediately upon acceptance. Accepted ethics Complaints filed against State of Montana employees are not made public.

Learn more about the complaint process for:

FORMAL COMPLAINTS
Click this Docket of Formal Complaints to see:

  1. 1. Campaign Practice Complaints,
  2. 2. Orders of Non-Compliance,
  3. 3. Lobbying Complaints, and
  4. 4. Ethics Complaints.

DECISIONS
Click the below links for:

- Campaign Finance Decisions
- Lobbying Decisions
- Ethics Decisions
- Advisory Opinions
- Orders of Non-Compliance
- Response Letters 

RECENT DECISIONS, ORDERS, AND ADVISORY OPINIONS
Find all campaign finance decisions for download here
Find all ethics decisions for download here
Find all lobbying decisions for download here

- Johnson v. Hopkins - COPP-2018-CFP-056
- Eaton v. Olsen - COPP-2018-CFP-035
- Essmann v BCOC
- COPP-2018-CFP- 043
- Eaton v. Bishop - COPP-2018-CFP- 044
- GCD v. Buchanan - COPP-2018-CFP-055
- Hart v Pearson et al - COPP-2016-LOB-001 & 002
- Eaton v. McClafferty - COPP-2018-CFP- 045

INFORMATION REQUEST POLICY
   - Dissemination of Formal Complaints and Decisions
   - Confidentiality of Investigative Documents

I am going to put up yardsigns. What do I need to know?

Legal requirements for campaign signs:

Political signs must comply with sign standards found in 75-15-113, MCA, and ARM 18.6.246. Some, but not all, legal requirements for political signs include:

1) Signs promoting political candidates or issues shall be placed on private property only and cannot be placed without the permission of the property owner. Political signs must comply with sign standards found in 75-15-113, MCA, and ARM 18.6.231, unless otherwise specified in this rule.

2) Political signs must not:

a) be placed on or allow any portion to intrude in the public right-of-way or on public property; and

b) be placed within 100 feet of any entrance to the building in which a polling place is located.

3) Political signs will not be considered in determining the spacing required between conforming off-premises outdoor advertising signs.

4) Federal law requires that any sign intended to be read from the highway must be regulated by the state. In Montana, as in other states, controlling highway signs is the responsibility of the Department of Transportation. Political signs must be removed within 14 days following the applicable election. The MTDOT shall notify the landowner of illegal signs which are not removed within 14 days. The signs shall be removed by the department 24 hours after notification to the landowner. The department shall retain removed political signs for five working days after notification of removal before their destruction. The sign owner may retrieve the signs during this period.

5) Signs that pose a traffic hazard may be removed by the department without prior notification to the sign owner.

(6) Political signs do not require permits and are not subject to permit fees.

All political signs must contain attribution information.

If you are placing signs on a State roadway, you must contact the Montana Department of Transportation (DOT) Right of Way Bureau (444-6055) for guidance. Also, reference this DOT signage guidance.

Timeline:

Cities and counties determine when a candidate can put up yard signs. To determine your municipality's guidance on signage (e.g. when signs can be put up and when they must be taken down), contact your local county elections administrator.

FAQs for 2019 City Candidates

Q1: I would like to run as a candidate for an elected public office in my city. What documentation do I need to file?

A: Candidates seeking election to a city office must file a C-1A Statement of Candidate with the COPP to appear on an official election ballot. The C-1A Statement of Candidate must be filed “within five (5) days after receiving or spending money, appointing a campaign treasurer, or filing for office, whichever occurs first.” There is no charge or filing fee to register as a candidate with the COPP. Candidates must also file a Declaration for Nomination and Oath of Candidacy with their county elections administrator. Please visit the Secretary of State’s website for more information on how to file as a candidate for public office in the state of Montana.

 

Q2: Can I use campaign funds to pay the filing fee required to file as a candidate with the county elections office?

A: Yes, candidates may use previously-raised campaign funds to pay their candidate filing fee with the county elections office. Candidates may also pay this fee out-of-pocket using personal funds.

  

Q3: What are the contribution limits, and how do they apply to me?

A: All candidates running for elected office in Montana are subject to contribution limits, which detail the maximum amount a candidate may accept from individuals and political committees. Specific contribution limits applicable to the 2019 city elections can be found on the COPP’s website. Keep in mind that a candidate’s own contributions to their campaign are exempt from contribution limits; there is no limit to what the candidate may contribute to their own campaign. Also, candidates cannot accept contributions from corporations or unions (§13-35-227, MCA).

 

Q4: 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?

A: 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.

 

Q5: I am a ‘C’ box candidate (will exceed $500 in contributions and expenditures) who has filed with the Commissioner of Political Practices to run for public office. When are my C-5 campaign finance reports due?

A: ‘C’ box candidates are required to periodically file C-5 campaign financial reports disclosing contributions received and expenditures made by the campaign. The first required C-5 report for the 2019 city elections will be due August 6th, with the full reporting calendar available on the COPP’s website. For tips on what information is required to be included within these C-5 reports, please see the COPP’s Candidate page.

 

Q6: What is the designation between primary and general elections? And do the contribution limits apply to both cycles?

A: The primary election and the general election are defined as two separate elections under Montana statute, and the 2019 contribution limits apply to both. Under the requirements of §13-37-216(5), MCA, "election" means the general election or a primary election that involves two or more candidates for the same nomination.

If there is no contested primary, there is only one election to which the contribution limits apply. If there is a contested primary, then there are two elections to which the contribution limits apply. For example, a candidate who is involved in a contested primary election could accept the maximum contribution limit from a donor during the primary. Then, and after advancing to the general election, the candidate could accept the max contribution from the same donor again for the general election. If the candidate is not involved in a contested primary and is advancing straight to the general election, the candidate could only receive one max contribution from that donor because they are only participating in one election.

 

Q7: I want to put out campaign signs and distribute other materials promoting my candidacy. What are the requirements for these materials?

A: Political signs must comply with sign standards found in 75-15-113, MCA, and ARM 18.6.246

 

All paid campaign materials meant to support the candidate must include a “paid for by” attribution message disclosing the entity that financed the material. This includes—but is not limited to—campaign mailers, radio ads, yard signs, boosted Facebook or Instagram posts, etc. The ‘paid for by’ message must be large enough to be readable and must include the name of the candidate and the listed mailing address. For more information, familiarize yourself with attribution requirements and how to report paid political communications.

 

If the material is too small for the disclaimer to be included (e.g. with a text, keychain, etc.), a copy of the material and the attribution information may be sent to the COPP to be approved for use to avoid potential campaign practices complaints. This information is publicly accessible on the COPP’s website. For more details on non-attributed campaign communications, review this information.

  

Q8: My campaign is planning on holding a fundraiser in my community where contributions will be collected from the group. What are the specific reporting requirements?
 

A: Before hosting a mass collection fundraiser event, keep in mind that any individual who donates $35 or more IN THE AGGREGATE (in total) to the campaign must have their name, address, occupation, and employer information listed on C-5 finance reports. The COPP staff recommends you collect this information from all donors, regardless of the size of their donation, and maintain accurate records to easily track each contributor's total contributions to date so that you already have it on hand when a donor hits that $35 threshold.

 

For individuals who provide a contribution at this type of event and have not met the $35 threshold, this information is not required. The campaign can report the total amount of these under $35 contributions collected at the event as a lump sum contribution in the fundraiser section of the C-5 report, along with 1) the date of the event, 2) the event’s location, 3) a brief description of the event itself, and 4) the approximate number of attendees. For further guidance in reporting contributions received at fundraiser events, please reference this guide.

 

Remember that candidates cannot accept anonymous contributions. If you do not know the source of a contribution made to your campaign, the contribution should be donated to charity.

 

Q9: My campaign plans on holding a raffle fundraiser, with various items donated to the campaign by local businesses serving as the prizes. What are reporting requirements?

A: Like with any other fundraiser or mass collection event, any contributor who donates $35 or more to the campaign needs to have their name, address, occupation and employer information included on C-5 reports. Contributions of less than $35 can be reported as a lump sum amount with the date of the event, its location, a brief description of the event, and the approximate number of attendees.

 

Please note that with a raffle event, any items donated to the campaign must be listed as in-kind contributions. Donated items must be reported for their fair market value (or best estimate) from the individual or entity who donated them. For more guidance on raffles, please see this 2008 advisory opinion issued by Commissioner Unsworth. 

 

Q10: Are city candidates required to file campaign finance reports electronically?

A: No. Candidates for city offices are encouraged to file using the CERS electronic reporting system but are not required to do so. Please see this CERS section for additional information regarding the CERS electronic reporting system.  

FAQs and Links of Interest

Have a question? Contact us!

Phone: (406) 444-2942
Office: 1209 8th Avenue, Helena, MT
General Email: cpphelp@mt.gov
Compliance Email: cppcompliance@mt.gov
Fax: 406-444-1643

Let's get social! We regularly post compliance tips, due date reminders, and information to make sure candidates and committees are prepared and confident to comply with all legal requirements.
 
Check out the latest news from the COPP office!

Contributions: Fundraisers

 



Committee Campaign Finance Information

Campaign Finance Laws

Campaign Finance and Practices
ARM Administrative Rules of the COPP, Title 44, Chapter 11: Campaign Finance & Ethics RulesConstituent Services Account Rules 
MCA: Title 13. Elections
     Chapter 1. General Provisions
     Chapter 35. Election and Campaign Practices and Criminal Provisions
     Chapter 37. Control of Campaign Practices

Ethics
MCA Title 2. Government Structure and Administration: Chapter 2. Standards of Conduct
ARM: Title 44, Chapter 10:
Code of Ethics Rules and Guidelines

Lobbying 
MCA: Title 5. Legislative Branch: Chapter 7. Lobbying
ARM: Title 44, Chapter 12: Lobbying Rules 

Understand the Campaign Finance Process

The COPP strongly advises committees to familiarize themselves with MCA and ARM campaign finance requirements (see previous section on Campaign Finance Laws) and these campaign finance guides:

- Montana Campaign Finance and Practices Laws (Blue Book)
- Accounting and Reporting Manual for Political Committees (Pink Book)

The Campaign Finance Process

Campaign Accounts and Banking Requirements
- The COPP's Inspection and Exam Process of Campaign Finance Reports
- How to Close out a Campaign Account


 

 

Guide to Committee Campaign Finance Forms

COMMITTEE CAMPAIGN FINANCE FORMS

The following is a list of report forms available to candidates from the Office of the Commissioner of Political Practices and a brief description of what each form is and where and when the form must be filed (available as a PDF):

- C-2 Statement of Organization (C-2 guide and paper copy): The C-2 Statement of Organization must be filed by all political committees who participate in Montana elections by making expenditures or receiving contributions. Form C-2 must be filed within five (5) days after appointing a campaign treasurer or making an expenditure to support or oppose a candidate or ballot issue, whichever occurs first, and must include the full name and address of the committee, the name and address of the bank the committee has opened an account with, the treasurer's full name and contact information, and all candidates or ballot issues supported or opposed and the date of those elections. Form C-2 must also denote the type of committee you wish to register as (Incidental, Ballot Issue, Political Party, and Independent)- to assist in determining the proper type of Political Committee to register as see MCA 13-1-101. A C-2 Statement of Organization can be filed in the CERS system.

- C-4 Incidental Political Committee Finance Report (C-4 guide): Form C-4 is the incidental committee finance report and must detail all contributions received and expenditures made by an incidental committee during a specific timeframe. C-4s are filed periodically according to calendar requirements, which can are found under the COPP's Reporting Calendars page.

- C-6 Political Committee Finance Report (C-6 guide): Form C-6 is the finance report that must be filed by political party, ballot issue, and independent (PAC) committees. Like the C-4, the C-6 must detail all contributions received and expenditures made by the committee during a certain time period. C-6s are filed according to calendar requirements, which can are found under the COPP's Reporting Calendars page.

- C-7 Notice of Pre-Election Contributions: Form C-7 must be filed when:

1) Any statewide political committee that is organized to support or oppose a statewide ballot issue receives $500 or more from a single source during the final 20 days before an election up through election day. Statewide political committees must file a form C-7 within 24 hours after receipt of a contribution of $500 or more.

2) Any other candidate or political committee receives $100 or more from a single source during the final 17 days before an election up through election day. Form C-7 is filed in the CERS system. The Form C-7 must be filed within 48 hours after receipt of contribution of $100 or more.

- C-7 E 24 Hour Notice of Pre-Election Expenditures (C-7E guide and form): Form C-7E must be filed by all political committees that make an expenditure or incur a debt or obligation of $500 or more for election material described in 13-35-225(1), MCA if made between the 17th day before the election and election day (13-37-226 MCA). Form C-7E must be filed within 24 hours after making the expenditure or incurring a debt of $500 or more.

 

INSPECTION AND EXAM PROCESS OF CAMPAIGN FINANCE FORMS

Montana campaign finance laws protect the public’s right to know who is paying to finance elections and how money is spent by campaigns. Candidates and committees ensure transparency in Montana’s democratic processes by periodically filing legally-required campaign finance information as campaign finance reports (C-4, C-5, C-6, C-7, and C-7E forms).

The COPP is mandated to review all candidate and committee financial reports (13-37-121[1], Montana Code Annotated). Once a campaign finance report is filed, the COPP inspects each report and sends the candidate or committee an Inspection Report.

The Inspection Report identifies any issues that the candidate or committee must address in their campaign finance reports in order to comply with Montana law. For example, an Inspection Report will alert candidates to items that require additional detail or information, items that may not be reported in the correct place or manner, or other potential issues. Click here to see a sample Inspection Report.

It is the responsibility of each candidate and committee to amend financial reports to ensure their compliance with Montana’s campaign finance laws. To learn more about the COPP's inspection and exam process, click here.

Committee Campaign Finance Resources, Guides, and Graphics

To best comply with campaign finance requirements, make sure to reference and familiarize yourself with the Montana Campaign Finance and Practices Laws (Blue Book) and the Accounting and Reporting Manual for Political Committees (Pink Book).

Contributions

- Contribution Limits, Graphic for Contribution Limits Per Election
- Reporting Fundraising Contributions
- Political Raffles

Expenditures

Paid Communications

Montana law requires that all election communications, electioneering communications, and independent expenditures include an attribution disclosing who the communication is funded by, and contact information for the source (Mont. Code Ann. § 13-35-225).  The Commissioner will enforce the requirements of the attribution laws on all political communications including text messages.

Campaign Finance Graphics

Independent Expenditures (PDF)


Paid Communications (PDF)

 

Contribution Limits Per Election (PDF)

Reporting Social Media (PDF)

Sample Committee Campaign

Sample Campaign

This sample campaign is designed for training purposes only. The CERS database system, which is where campaign finance reports are filed by candidates and committees, will be updated during the fall of 2019. Training guides will be updated to reflect the latest version of CERS.

- Montanans for Better Coffee (Committee)

Calendar with Committee Report Due Dates and Events

NOTE: Reporting dates for candidates and committees may change during the 2019 legislative session. This page will be updated to reflect the most up-to-date information.

Report calendars are available on this Reporting Calendars page:

  • - 2018 Candidate Report Dates
  • - 2019-2020 Lobbying Report Dates
  • - 2019 City Candidate Report Dates
  • - 2020 Candidates C-5 Report Dates
  • - School Candidate Report Dates
  • - Committee Report Dates

Navigate the CERS Campaign Finance System

The Campaign Electronic Reporting System (CERS) is a publicly accessible database where candidates and committees report the money they receive and spend to promote and oppose candidates and other ballot issues. To access the database to file a campaign finance report or search filed reports, click here

CERS resources

- CERS Instructions for New Users
- CERS 101: Simple Guidance
- 2018 CERS candidate PowerPoint

Complaint Information

COMPLAINT PROCESS, DECISIONS, DOCKET, AND PUBLIC INFORMATION

The COPP manages complaints concerning campaigns, lobbying, and ethics. The Commissioner has final determination as to whether a submitted complaint is accepted for filing. If accepted, the COPP conducts an investigation for campaign and lobbying complaints.  Please keep in mind that all accepted campaign and lobbying complaints are made public immediately upon acceptance. Investigations are not conducted for ethics complaints. Accepted ethics complaints filed against elected officials will also be made public immediately upon acceptance. Accepted ethics Complaints filed against State of Montana employees are not made public.

Learn more about the complaint process for:

FORMAL COMPLAINTS
Click this Docket of Formal Complaints to see:

  1. 1. Campaign Practice Complaints,
  2. 2. Orders of Non-Compliance,
  3. 3. Lobbying Complaints, and
  4. 4. Ethics Complaints.

DECISIONS
Click the below links for:

- Campaign Finance Decisions
- Lobbying Decisions
- Ethics Decisions
- Advisory Opinions
- Orders of Non-Compliance
- Response Letters 

RECENT DECISIONS, ORDERS, AND ADVISORY OPINIONS
Find all campaign finance decisions for download here
Find all ethics decisions for download here
Find all lobbying decisions for download here

- Johnson v. Hopkins - COPP-2018-CFP-056
- Eaton v. Olsen - COPP-2018-CFP-035
- Essmann v BCOC
- COPP-2018-CFP- 043
- Eaton v. Bishop - COPP-2018-CFP- 044
- GCD v. Buchanan - COPP-2018-CFP-055
- Hart v Pearson et al - COPP-2016-LOB-001 & 002
- Eaton v. McClafferty - COPP-2018-CFP- 045

INFORMATION REQUEST POLICY
   - Dissemination of Formal Complaints and Decisions
   - Confidentiality of Investigative Documents

Links of Interest and FAQs

Have a question? Contact the COPP!

Phone: (406) 444-2942
Office: 1209 8th Avenue, Helena, MT
General Email: cpphelp@mt.gov
Compliance Email: cppcompliance@mt.gov
Fax: 406-444-1643

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