Campaign Finance: Contribution Limits and Disclosures for Candidates and Campaigns Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Disclaimer: These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) address common questions about Multnomah County’s Contribution limits in Multnomah County Candidate Elections, but do not address any other local, state, or federal requirements. These FAQs are not legal advice. For exact language and requirements, please view the Multnomah County Charter, Code and Rules. The County Charter and Code can be found online at County Government and Elections. If you do not find the answers to your questions after reviewing the Charter, Code, Rules, and content below, please contact email@example.com or 503.988.8613 and we will respond to you as quickly as possible.
Common FAQs by Topic
I am considering becoming a Candidate for a Multnomah County elected office. At what point do I become a Candidate who would be required to abide by Multnomah County’s Contribution limits and disclosure provisions?
A person becomes a Candidate who is subject to Multnomah County’s Contribution limits and disclosure requirements when the person:
- Files their Candidate Filing form (SEL 101) with the Elections Director for one of the elected public offices of Multnomah County for an upcoming election; or
- Identifies an elected public office of Multnomah County for an upcoming election in an original or amended Statement of Organization for a Candidate Committee; or
- Declares their candidacy for an elected public office of Multnomah County for an upcoming election on a publicly accessible source, which includes, but is not limited to, public posts on social media; publicly accessible websites, blogs, or message boards; statements made by the Individual published by news media; television and print ads; and billboards; or
- Expresses consent to be named as a candidate for nomination or election to an elected public office of Multnomah County for an upcoming election including expressing consent through written communications or recorded statements affirming the Individual’s agreement to participate as a candidate for an elected public office of Multnomah County for an upcoming election, including as a write-in candidate; or
- Solicits or receives and accepts a Contribution, makes an Expenditure, or gives consent to an Individual or Entity to solicit or receive and accept a Contribution or make an Expenditure on the Individual’s behalf to secure nomination or election for an upcoming election to an elected public office of Multnomah County; or
- Is an officeholder for one of the elected public offices of Multnomah County and is the subject of a recall petition that has been completed and filed.
However, an Individual who has filed a Candidate Filing Withdrawal form (SEL 150) for an upcoming election for one of the elected public offices of Multnomah County is no longer a Candidate subject to the Contribution limits and disclosure requirements.
Candidates are prohibited from accepting more than $568 from Individuals or Political Committees during an Election Cycle, and Communications to voters must include the top five Dominant Contributors and Dominant Independent Spenders based on their funding or spending per Election Cycle. When does an Election Cycle start and end?
- The Election Cycle for an elected public office of Multnomah County starts at 12:01 a.m. the day after the election at which a Multnomah County Candidate is elected to office and runs until midnight on the day of the next election where a Candidate is elected to that same office. Because Multnomah County Candidates can be elected in a May primary if they receive more than 50 percent of the vote, an Election Cycle may end in May or November.
- If there is a special election to fill a vacancy, that special election will have its own Election Cycle starting when the Multnomah County Board calls for the special election and running through the election, inclusive of any special election runoff.
Visit Multnomah County Candidate Election Cycles for more information about the current election cycles.
Who is held responsible for ensuring the $568 Contribution limits are not violated - the Candidate’s campaign or the donor?
- Under the County’s campaign finance regulations, both the contributor and the Candidate or the Candidate Committee are liable for transactions that exceed the Contribution limits.
- For example: An Individual contributor may be found in violation for making more than the allowed Contribution to a single Candidate Committee and that Candidate Committee may also be found in violation for accepting such a Contribution.
- Candidate/Candidate Committee safe harbor: Similarly, if a Candidate or their Candidate Committee returns or declines funds that would be in violation of the Contribution limits within the timeframes outlined below, then the funds will not be deemed “received” and will not be considered to have violated the Contribution limits.
- Except as provided below, a Candidate or Candidate Committee must return the excess Contribution within 30 calendar days of the date of receipt to be eligible for the safe harbor.
- However, as an election gets closer, the eligible period for returning or declining excess Contributions shortens. For a Contribution received during the period beginning 42 calendar days before a primary, general, recall, or special election, a Candidate or Candidate Committee must return the excess Contribution within 7 calendar days of the date of receipt to be eligible for the safe harbor.
- Contributor safe harbor: If a donor has made a Contribution that would violate the Contribution limit, the donor may request, in writing, the return of their excess Contribution from the Candidate or their Candidate Committee within 30 days of the Contribution. Evidence of such a communication may be used in seeking safe harbor from civil penalties if it is the donor’s first violation during an Election Cycle.
Are loans and loan forgiveness subject to the Contribution limits?
- The definition of a “Contribution” includes a “loan” and “forgiving of indebtedness.” Therefore making or forgiving a loan over $568 to a Candidate or Candidate Committee is prohibited under the County’s established Contribution limits.
- There is a very narrow exception for certain loans made by certain financial institutions.
- However, anything of value provided by a Candidate to their own Candidate Committee or otherwise provided by a Candidate to support their own election or nomination to an elected public office of Multnomah County is not considered a Contribution for purposes of the County’s Contribution limits, and therefore would not be subject to the limits.
Are in-kind contributions subject to the Contribution limits?
- The definition of a “Contribution” includes “services other than personal services for which no compensation is asked or given, supplies, equipment or any other thing of value,” all of which are commonly known as in-kind contributions. Unless explicitly excluded from the definition of “Contribution” in County Code, in-kind contributions are considered a Contribution subject to the $568 limit.
- Examples of in-kind contributions that are not subject to the $568 Contribution limit include:
- Rooms, phones, and internet access provided for use by a Candidate Committee free or at a reduced charge;
- A written news story, commentary or editorial distributed through the facilities of a broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine or other regularly published publication, unless a Political Committee owns the facility;
- An Individual’s use of their own personal residence, including a community room associated with their residence, to conduct a reception for a Candidate and the Individual’s cost of invitations, food and beverages provided;
- A vendor’s sale of food and beverages for use in a Candidate’s campaign at a charge less than the normal charge, if the charge is at least equal to the cost of the food or beverages to the vendor;
- Any unreimbursed payment for travel expenses an Individual makes on behalf of the Candidate.
Is volunteer work subject to the Contribution limits? If a volunteer is providing professional quality services to a campaign, is that subject to the Contribution limits?
- “Contribution” is defined, in part, as “services other than personal services for which no compensation is asked or given.” Under this definition, volunteer work (meaning, work done without compensation) is not considered a Contribution and not subject to Contribution Limits.
- If an individual volunteers with a campaign and provides professional quality services (for example: photography, website design, campaign strategy), those services are not considered a Contribution so long as the volunteer does not ask for any compensation for those services and the campaign does not give any compensation. If the services instead are provided at a discount, the amount of the discount would qualify as a Contribution. For example, if a provider normally charges $300/hour, but charges a candidate only $100/hour, the provider is providing a Contribution of $200/hour.
I’m a Candidate (please see definition of candidate) running for a Multnomah County elected office, what exactly do I need to disclose on my campaign Communications?
- If the Communication is funded solely by your Candidate Committee, and is not otherwise exempt from disclosure (e.g., funded with a total of $345 or less), you must disclose that your Candidate Committee funded the Communication, e.g., “Paid for by Friends of Candidate X.”
- The Candidate Committee must also disclose its top 5 Dominant Contributors in the current Election Cycle.
- Here, Dominant Contributors would be Individuals or Entities that had contributed more than $1,152 during the Election Cycle to the Candidate Committee. If no Individual or Entity contributed more than $1,152 to the Candidate Committee during the Election Cycle, no additional disclosure would be required.
- If the Candidate Committee is complying with the Contribution limits, the only potential Dominant Contributors would be Small Donor Committees, which can give unlimited amounts.
- If a Small Donor Committee is one of the Candidate Committee’s Dominant Contributors, the Communication must include the name of the Small Donor Committee.
- Although the disclosure for some Dominant Contributors must include the types of businesses from which they have obtained a majority of their income over the previous five years, because a Small Donor Committee must obtain its income from Individuals, rather than from businesses, that requirement does not apply to Small Donor Committees.
- If the Communication is funded solely by you as a Candidate (independent of your Candidate Committee and campaign funds), then no disclosure is required because the Communication would not be funded with Contributions or Independent Expenditures.
What type of items are exempt from Multnomah County’s disclosure requirements?
- The following items are exempt from Multnomah County’s campaign disclosure requirements:
- Bumper stickers
- Signs smaller than six square feet
- Small items worn or carried by Individuals, such as buttons or stickers
- 500 or fewer substantially similar flyers or other pieces of literature distributed in any 10-business day period
- Other communications funded through a de minimis amount of $345 or less
If a Candidate for Multnomah County elected office gives and/or loans themselves or their campaign over $1,152, does that funding make them a Dominant Contributor subject to the disclosure rules for top five Dominant Contributors?
- No. Anything of value provided by a Candidate to their own Candidate Committee or otherwise provided by a Candidate to support their own election or nomination to an elected public office of Multnomah County is not considered a Contribution for purposes of the County’s campaign finance regulations and therefore does not need to be disclosed through the Dominant Contributor requirements.
I have campaign Social Media accounts, do I need to list my funding sources on every post?
- It depends on whether the post includes professionally-produced Communications, and the amount of funding used to provide or present the post.
- If the post was funded using a total of $345 or less, no disclosure is required.
- If that exemption does not apply, the County’s Administrative Rules outline a few different ways to satisfy the disclosure requirements on social media.
- Funder(s) Listed with Active Link to Website for Additional Disclosures. One option is for each Communication on social media to (1) identify in the Communication who paid for it and (2) include an active link to a website with any additional required disclosures, such as the list of Dominant Contributors. The disclosures on the separate website must be easily accessible and prominently displayed. Note that different rules apply for professionally-produced Communications, as outlined below.
- Static Location. A second option is to list all required disclosures in a static location, such as a biography or profile section of a Social Media account used for campaign Communications. If the static page of a Social Media account is character limited in a way that prevents full compliance with the disclosure provisions on that static page, then the disclosure requirements can be met by using the static page to provide an active link to a website with all required disclosure information, if the information on that linked website is easily accessible and prominently displayed. When disclosures are included in a static location, disclosures are not required in the text portion of every Communication, such as in every text-based Tweet, unless the Communication includes professionally-produced material.
- Professionally-Produced Material. If you publish a professionally-produced Communication (such as a video advertisement, audio, infographic, or photo) via Social Media, different requirements apply and you should list the funding sources for that professionally-produced Communication as required on the Communication.
How often should I update my required disclosure information on my campaign’s website and Social Media accounts?
- Generally, disclosures must be current to within 10 business days of printing the Communication that requires disclosure, but audio and video Communications must generally have disclosures that are current to within five business days of their transmission. It is recommended that disclosures be dated to ensure timeliness.
I am wondering if my campaign Communication will comply with the County’s disclosure regulations. Will your office review my ad before it’s distributed?
- No, however, the Elections Division can provide general information about how the County is implementing the requirements. For specific legal advice or formal opinions, all Candidates, campaigns, and donors are individually responsible for compliance and should seek outside legal advice.