The coronavirus (COVID-19) presents many new challenges for political campaigns, committees, and related actors. These challenges include the possibility that treasurers and staff will be unavailable to timely prepare and submit campaign finance reports. Today, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) provided an update on Commission operations, including on the upcoming deadlines for filing campaign finance reports.
The FEC has confirmed that filers should continue to file their reports on time because the Commission does not believe it has the statutory authority to extend these filing deadlines. The Commission has, however, advised that it may exercise its discretion “not to pursue administrative fines against filers prevented from filing by reasonably unforeseen circumstances beyond their control.”
On a case-by-case basis, the Commission has previously decided not to pursue administrative fines for filers that used best efforts to timely file but were prevented from doing so by reasonably unforeseen circumstances and filed their reports no later than 24 hours after the end of the circumstance. For example, the Commission has decided not to pursue fines when filers were prevented from filing by severe weather events like hurricanes, but not by illness or unavailability of treasurers or other staff, which Commission regulations explicitly note will not be considered reasonably unforeseen and beyond the control of the filer.
The FEC has closed its offices to visitors and strongly encourages its employees to work remotely. The Commission continues to receive, review, and publish campaign finance reports filed electronically, but has ceased processing reports sent by mail or a delivery service. The vast majority of filers are required to file electronically, and those reports, which must be timely filed, will be made available on the Commission’s website.
Amid the ever-evolving news around coronavirus and the challenges you and your organization are now facing, please reach out to Venable’s Political Law Practice if you need assistance.