On May 1, 2013, Governor Rick Scott signed into law House Bill 569 (HB569), which enacts sweeping changes to Florida’s campaign finance laws. The changes will affect every elected official as well as any person who makes campaign contributions to any elected official.
Campaign Contribution Limits
HB569 significantly increases the campaign contribution limits allowable under law. The new limits are as follows:
Statewide office (governor, attorney general, Supreme Court justice): Contribution limits are raised to $3,000 per election (increased from $500)
Legislative office: Contribution limits are raised to $1,000 (increased from $500)
Countywide office, multicounty office, or circuit judge: Contribution limits are raised to $1,000 (increased from $500)
Campaign Finance Reporting Requirements Significantly Increased
Candidates and political committees must now file more than three times the number of campaign finance reports to the Division of Elections. Current law requires all candidates and political committees to file quarterly reports listing all contributions and expenditures for that reporting period. As of November 1, 2013, Florida will now require all candidates and political committees to file monthly reports.
Additionally, Florida law will now require weekly reports beginning on the 60th day before the primary election, and each week thereafter, until 10 days before the general election. Daily reports will then be required from the 10th day before the general election with the last report being due the fifth day before the election.
Elimination of All Committees of Continuous Existence
Prior to the enactment of HB569, Florida law allowed virtually anyone, including candidates for office, to create a quasi-political action committee called a committee of continuous existence (CCE). Many candidates, corporations, and organizations operated their CCEs in a legal and ethical manner; however, in recent years, CCEs had come under harsh criticism because there was virtually no limitation on what expenditures were permissible, thus making them ripe for abuse. HB569 revokes the certification of all CCEs, prohibits any CCE from accepting any contribution as of August 1, 2013, and requires all current CCEs to have a zero balance by September 30, 2013.
The Rise of Political Committees
With the elimination of all CCEs, any group or organization wishing to collaborate in making political contributions must now create a political committee. Political committees have been in existence for years; however, because they were limited to $500 contributions, they were not particularly practical. HB569 eliminates the $500 contribution limit, and political committees may now accept unlimited contributions. Moreover, political committees also may accept a complete rollover contribution from a soon-to-be dissolved CCE.
Campaign laws can be confusing and a trap for the unwary. A violation of Florida’s campaign finance laws carries hefty financial penalties and, in the case of a willful violation, criminal penalties; therefore, careful attention to the newly enacted statutory laws is imperative for any candidate, political committee, or campaign contributor.