One of the most challenging aspects of running for office is navigating campaign finance laws. One mistake can doom a campaign and ruin a reputation.
Whether it is a federal, state or local campaign, there’s a good chance the opposition, media or a public watchdog are carefully scrutinizing campaign finance reports. Just in the past few months, dozens of allegations of missteps have been raised around the country:
- In Colorado, an independent spending committee supporting congressional candidate Erik Aadland is accused of taking an illegal donation from a company doing business with the federal government, which is prohibited under federal law. The committee is also accused of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars more than it has collected, leaving significant sums of money unaccounted for, according to campaign finance records.
- In California, a candidate for Chula Vista mayor is accused of breaking city and state campaign finance laws by hiring a private investigator to monitor his opponent.
- Mark Ronchetti, a candidate for New Mexico governor, is under fire for accepting campaign contributions from two donors who signed fake electoral vote certificates in a scheme to overturn 2020 presidential election results. While the contributions are legal, they’ve become a public relations nightmare for the candidate.
- In Washington state, Meta, Facebook’s parent company, is accused of violating a state campaign finance law more than 800 times. The law requires ad sellers to disclose the names and addresses of political ad buyers, the targets of such ads and the total number of views of each ad.
New York Campaign Finance Law
In New York, every election season forces candidates to navigate complex sets of election laws and deal with entities such as the Federal Election Commission, New York State Board of Elections and the New York City Campaign Finance Board, as well as New York county boards of elections. Maintaining compliance with those law is an arduous task for even seasoned candidates.
New York City offers a unique high-stakes challenge. The city provides matching funds to city candidates – a record $127 million in the 2021 election season. That’s extra incentive to stay in compliance.
In the age of acrimonious and highly partisan politics, campaign finance is a high-stakes arena with massive amounts of money changing hands. A successful campaign must avoid the public allegations, hefty fines and contentious litigation that can result from finance missteps. One way for candidates to avoid running afoul of stringent laws is to consult trusted, seasoned election attorneys experienced in navigating the labyrinth of campaign finance laws at the federal, state and local level.
This alert is not a substitute for advice of counsel on specific legal issues.
Harris Beach has offices throughout New York state, including Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, New York City, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse, Uniondale and White Plains, as well as Washington D.C., New Haven, Connecticut and Newark, New Jersey.