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Fines and Waivers - Policy for late campaign disclosure statements

Overview

The late filing of campaign disclosure statements denies voters and the general public of important information that should be current and readily available, especially in the months before an election. The Political Reform Act provides that campaign disclosure statements filed late are subject to fines, and the Santa Cruz County Elections Department enforces these fines.

The Santa Cruz County Elections Department’s policy on fines and waivers is consistent with the Fair Political Practices Commission’s Guidelines for Imposing and Waiving Fines.

In the case of an original statement or report which is filed late, the fine is $10 per day, starting the day after the filing deadline until the statement or report was filed; however, no liability shall exceed the cumulative amount stated in the late statement or report, or $100, whichever is greater. The fine is $10 per day, starting five days in the case of a second pre-election report campaign statement, after this office has sent specific written notice of the filing requirement, until the statement or report was filed.

There is no provision in the Act for an extension of a filing deadline.

The Elections Department has discretion on whether to assess a fine on a late statement if the filer requests in writing to waive or reduce the fine.  The Elections Department has the authority to fully or partially waive a fine if the filing officer determines that the late filing was due to good cause.

Deadlines

Filing deadlines are available from the Santa Cruz County Elections Department or on the Internet at the Department’s website at www.votescount.com and the FPPC website at www.fppc.ca.gov

Filing

Filers are to file campaign statements electronically.  Campaign statements that contain 30 pages or less may still be accepted if faxed, provided that the faxed copy of the campaign statement is the exact copy of the wet-signed, original version. The original version must be sent by first-class mail, guaranteed overnight delivery, or delivered personally within 24 hours of the applicable deadline.

Form 470 Supplements, late contribution reports, and late independent expenditure reports are not required to be mailed if the reports are faxed because these reports do not require signatures.

Good cause for receiving a partial or full waiver of fine for filing late

In order to obtain a partial or full waiver of a fine for a late filing, a filer must provide a timely written request to the Santa Cruz County Elections Department providing details which show good cause for why the statement is being filed late.   A stricter standard may be applied to persons who filed late statements in prior years.

“Good cause” may include:

  • illness, injury, personal tragedy or similar reasons;
  • being unexpectedly out of town during the filing deadline;
  • inadequate or erroneous notification of their filing requirement.

Five-Day Rule

The Elections Department does not identify any late statements until 24 hours after the deadline. This is because statements may be mailed overnight and thereby not received until the day after the deadline. Therefore, the following will apply:

  • Persons who filed within five days of the filing deadline with no prior history of late filing and a letter explaining why the statement is late will be granted automatic waivers. No automatic waiver will be provided for the 3rd Pre-Election statement filed by persons running for county offices;
  • Persons who filed within five days of the filing deadline or after, but who have filed late in prior years, will be required to provide good cause in writing. Following review by the filing officer the fine may or may not be waived.

What the Elections Department will do

  1. A courtesy call will be made the day after the statement is due.
  2. On the 5th day following the deadline, the filing officer will telephone or email the responsible party notifying him or her that the statement is late;
  3. After making the call, the filing officer will write a letter to the filer explaining that the filer has 10 days to file the statement;
  4. If the statement is filed within 10 days of the phone call without providing any written reason why the filing officer should consider waiving the fee, the filer will be assessed $10 per day following the day after the statement was due up to the maximum allowed by law;
  5. If the statement is filed within 10 days of the phone call with a written letter explaining why the statement is late, the filing officer will review the reasons for being late and will make a determination of whether to waive part, all or none of the late fee;
  6. If no statement is filed by the 10th day, no good cause may be provided. The filer will automatically be fined $10 per day up to the maximum allowed by law.
  7. A second letter will be sent at that time to the filer asking for the statement to be filed within 10 days (unless it is a 2nd pre-election statement, then it will be 5 days) or the matter will be referred to the Fair Political Practices Commission Enforcement Division;
  8. If the filer fails to respond by the deadline provided in the second letter, the filing officer will report the matter to the FPPC.

For more information on this policy, please contact the Santa Cruz County Elections Department at 701 Ocean St., Room 210, Santa Cruz, CA 95060 831-454-2060 or visit our website at www.votescount.com