Becoming a Ballot Question Committee
Most organizations that raise or spend money to initiate or influence a statewide ballot question in Maine form a political action committee (PAC) for that purpose, and file campaign finance reports with the Commission. Some advocacy, charitable, or other organizations do not qualify as PACs under the Election Law, but they are interested in raising and spending money to influence a ballot question.
If your organization does not meet the definition of a political action committee as defined in 21-A M.R.S.A. §1052(5), but receives or spends more than $5,000 to initiate or influence the outcome of a statewide ballot question, then your organization would be considered a ballot question committee and would have to register and file campaign finance reports with the Commission.
If your organization's only financial activity is to make a contribution to a PAC or a ballot question committee that will disclose the contribution in a campaign finance report, your organization does not have to register with the Commission. However, if your organization has raised funds for the purpose of contributing to a PAC or ballot question committee involved in a ballot question rather than from your organization's general treasury, it could trigger the registration requirement.
The requirement to register as a ballot question committee also applies to an individual who raises or spends more than $5,000 to initiate or influence a ballot question. However, if an individual uses his or her own funds to make a contribution to a PAC or ballot question committee, he or she would not qualify as a ballot question committee, provided that the funds used to make the contribution were not obtained from another source in order to make the contribution .
When to Register and File an Initial Report
If the total amount of contributions received or expenditures made by your organization to initiate or influence the outcome of a ballot question exceeds $5,000, your organization is required to register and file an initial campaign finance report with the Commission within seven (7) days of exceeding the $5,000 threshold.
All campaign activity leading up the $5,000 threshold must be reported on the initial report. The start date for the initial report is the date of the first contribution, general treasury transfer, or expenditure, whichever is earlier, even if it is not in the same calendar the election.
Your organization is required to report only those contributions and expenditures that have been made for the purpose of initiating or influencing a ballot question. If your organization uses funds from its general treasury, those amounts must be reported as contributions from the organization.
In campaign finance reports, your organization must include an itemization of all contributions over $50, including the name and address of each contributor. For individuals who contribute more than $50, the contributor's occupation and employer must also be reported. Contributions of $50 or less may be reported as a lump sum. Every expenditure made to support or oppose a ballot question must be reported, including expenditures for the collection of signatures for a direct initiative.
The Commission staff views contributions received and expenditures made by opponents of a citizen initiative during the signature-gathering phase as contributions and expenditures to influence an election which would count towards the threshold.
If your organization uses paid staff to work on its ballot question activities, the amount of compensation for staff time must be reported as an expenditure. Goods or services, including donated staff time, your organization receives from other organizations or individuals must be reported as in-kind contributions.
The laws governing ballot question committees apply to municipal ballot questions in certain town and cities. If your organization qualifies as a ballot question committee because of its involvement with a municipal ballot question in one of those towns and cities, your organization will have to register and file reports with the municipal clerk. Please contact your town clerk or view the list of participating towns to find out if this applies to your organization.
Definition of a Political Action Committee:
21-A M.R.S.A. §1052(5)