Under the Commission's mandatory electronic filing rules, which took effect January 1, 2001, any committee that receives contributions or makes expenditures in excess of $50,000 in the current calendar year, or that has reason to expect to do so, must submit its reports electronically. Any filer who is required to file electronically, but instead files on paper, will be considered a nonfiler and may be subject to enforcement action under the administrative fine program. The mandatory electronic filing provisions (11 CFR 104.18) apply to any political committee or other person required to file reports, statements and/or designations with the FEC. These requirements do not apply to Senate candidate committees (and other persons who support Senate candidates only), who file with the Secretary of the Senate.
Reason to Expect to Exceed the Threshold
Once filers actually exceed the $50,000 threshold, they have “reason to expect” to exceed the threshold in the following two calendar years. 11 CFR 104.18 (a)(3)(i). As a result, they must continue to file electronically for the two years (January through December) following the year in which they exceeded the threshold. Filers with no historic data on which to base their calculations should expect to exceed the threshold if they either receive contributions or make expenditures that exceed one-quarter of the threshold amount in the first quarter of the calendar year, or they receive contributions or make expenditures that exceed one-half of the threshold amount in the first half of the calendar year. 11 CFR 104.18 (a)(3)(ii).
The regulations allow an exception to the requirement of filing for the following two calendar years for candidate committees:
While all committees must file electronically in the year in which they exceed the threshold, authorized candidate committees meeting these requirements do not “expect to exceed the threshold” in the following two calendar years and, therefore, need not file electronically during those years unless they actually exceed the threshold.
Application of the $50,000 Threshold
Each unauthorized committee (PAC or party committee) must file electronically if the total contributions or total expenditures of that committee exceed, or are expected to exceed, the $50,000 threshold. The threshold is calculated on a per-committee basis, and each committee calculates its own contributions and expenditures separately and files separately, even if it is affiliated with another committee.
By contrast, all committees authorized by one candidate must file electronically if their combined total contributions or combined total expenditures exceed, or are expected to exceed, the threshold.
Persons whose independent expenditures exceed, or are expected to exceed, the $50,000 threshold must also file electronically.
Committees that are not required to file electronically are strongly encouraged to do so voluntarily. Once a committee begins to file its reports electronically, on a voluntary basis, it must continue to file electronically for the remainder of the calendar year unless the Commission determines that extraordinary and unforeseeable circumstances make continued electronic filing impractical. 11 CFR 104.18(b). No such waiver by the Commission, however, has been established for mandatory electronic filers.