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Ballot Question Committees

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 regular PAC 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 group 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 group would be considered a ballot question committee and you would have to register and file campaign finance reports with the Commission.

If your only financial activity is to make a contribution to a PAC that will disclose your contribution in a campaign finance report, you do not have to register with the Commission. However, if the contribution comes from funds raised for the specific purpose of contributing to a PAC involved in a ballot question rather than from your general treasury, it could trigger the registration requirement.

When to Register and File an Initial Report

If the total amount of contributions received or expenditures made by your group to initiate or influence the outcome of a ballot question exceeds $5,000, your group 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 your first contribution, general treasury transfer, or expenditure, whichever is earlier, even if it is not in the same calendar the election.

You are required to report only those contributions and expenditures that have been made for the purpose of influencing the outcome of a ballot question. If your organization uses funds from its general treasury, those amounts must be reported as contributions from the organization.

In your report, you must include an itemization of all contributions over $100, including the name and address of each contributor. For individuals who contribute more than $100, you must also report their occupation and employer. Contributions of $100 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. If your organization received goods or services, including donated staff time, from other organizations or individuals, you must report those as in-kind contributions.

Municipal Referenda

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 those towns and cities, you will have to register and file reports with the municipal clerk, instead of the Commission. Please contact your town clerk or view the list of participating towns to find out if this applies to your organization.

Legal References

Ballot Question Reporting Requirements:
21-A M.R.S.A. §1056-B and 21-A M.R.S.A. §1059

Definition of a Political Action Committee:
21-A M.R.S.A. §1052(5)