Ramsey County Elections is the filing office for candidate and political committees in the jurisdictions listed below. Select the appropriate link for detailed reporting information and see a list of frequently asked questions below.
Definitions of campaign finance terms
Refer to Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 211A unless otherwise specified.
Ballot question: A proposition placed on the ballot to be voted on by the voters of one or more political subdivisions but not by all the voters of a state.
Candidate: An individual who seeks nomination or election to a county, municipal, school district, or other political subdivision office.
Committee: A corporation, association, or persons acting together to influence the election or defeat of a candidate or to promote or defeat a ballot question.
- A candidate committee is established in support of one specific candidate for one specific office.
- A political committee is established in support of candidates, a party, an issue, or for the promotion or defeat of a ballot question.
Contribution: Anything of monetary value that is given or loaned to a candidate or committee for a political purpose. This does not include a service provided without compensation by an individual.
Expenditure: Money, property, office, position, or any other thing of value that passes or is directly or indirectly conveyed, given, promised, paid, expended, pledged, contributed, or lent.
In-kind contribution: Anything of value other than money given by an individual or association for the purpose of influencing the nomination or election of a candidate or for the purpose of promoting or defeating a ballot question.
Independent expenditure (Minn. Stat. §10A.01 subd. 18): An expenditure expressly advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate - if the expenditure is made without the express or implied consent, authorization, or cooperation of, and not in concert with or at the request or suggestion of, any candidate or any candidate's principal campaign committee or agent. An independent expenditure is not a contribution to that candidate. An expenditure by a political party or political party unit in a race where the political party has a candidate on the ballot is not an independent expenditure.
Legal expenditures (Minn. Stat. §211B.12): Money collected for political purposes in which the use of the money is reasonably related to the conduct of election campaigns, or is a non-campaign disbursement as defined in Minn. Stat. §10A.01, subd. 26.
The following are permitted expenditures when made for political purposes:
- Salaries, wages, and fees;
- Communications, mailing, transportation, and travel;
- Campaign advertising;
- Office and other space and necessary equipment, furnishings, and incidental supplies;
- Charitable contributions of not more than $100 to any charity organized under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code annually, except that the amount contributed by a principal campaign committee that dissolves within one year after the contribution is made is not limited by this clause; and
- Other expenses, not included in clauses (1) to (6), that are reasonably related to the conduct of election campaign. In addition, expenditures made for the purpose of providing information to constituents, whether or not related to the conduct of an election, are permitted expenses. Money collected for political purposes and assets of a political committee or political fund may not be converted to personal use.
Political purpose: Anything of a nature, done with the intent, or done in a way to influence or tend to influence, directly or indirectly, voting at a primary or an election or if it is done because a person is about to vote, has voted, or has refrained from voting at a primary or an election.
Frequently asked questions
When do I officially become a candidate?
You become a candidate when you file an affidavit of candidacy.
Do I need to set up a special bank account for the campaign funds?
A separate bank account needs to be established as soon as funds are accepted from an individual other than the candidate. Inform the bank that you need another personal account, not a business account.
If a candidate is self-funding his/her campaign, the candidate does not need a separate bank account, but must list his/her own bank location on the reporting forms when requested.
Do I need an Employer Identification Number (Federal Tax ID Number) for a bank account?
No. An EIN is required for filing at the state level, but it is not required for filing for county, city, or school board candidates.
Is it OK for the same person to hold multiple committee accounts?
Yes. Keep in mind the contribution limit for the year and office. Report any funds transfers as expenses and contributions; transferring funds from one account should be an expenditure in that account and a contribution to the other account. You may also file an initial report for the new committee immediately, even if you have not yet reached the spending/raising threshold in your new committee account.
Can a candidate also hold committee offices?
Do I need to fill all the committee offices on the statement of organization?
No. You may complete treasurer and campaign chair; they can be the same person.
How do I account for food brought to meetings/fundraisers, etc?
As long as the food brought by each individual falls under the itemization threshold it can be reported in the lump sum non-itemized contributions section of the report. However, it is important to keep track of the monetary value of each food item brought and the individual who brought it as it does figure into the aggregate contribution limitation in election/non-election years.
Can a campaign provide food or non-alcoholic refreshments at a campaign event?
Food or non-alcoholic refreshments can be provided at an event if the value of the food and non-alcoholic beverages does not exceed $5.00 and they are consumed on the premises of the private event or public meeting. Any alcoholic beverages must be purchased by attendees, not provided for free.
How do I account for in-kind contributions on a report?
Input the fair market value of an in-kind donation in the contributions section of the report and list it as an expenditure in the same period.
Are anonymous contributions allowed?
No, candidates must provide the name, address, employer or occupation if self-employed, amount, and date. If the anonymous party is known, the donation should be returned to them or the payment voided before processing. If the anonymous party is not known, anonymous contributions should be given to the city or county's treasury.
Can an office space be donated to a campaign in lieu of rental fees?
Yes, but contribution limits apply as a donation of office space would be considered an in-kind donation; the appropriate contribution limit would apply, depending on the year and the office. Owners of the property should assess fair market value to determine value of the in-kind donation.
Can I loan money to my campaign and use contributions to pay myself back?
Yes, but you must have a separate campaign account established. A loan should be reported as a contribution when made and as an expenditure when paid back.
Individuals have donated items for a fundraising auction. How do I account for this on the finance report?
Assign the fair market value to the item and list it as an in-kind contribution. Also list it as an expenditure in the same reporting period. Any money received for the item during auction is listed as a cash contribution in the appropriate reporting period.
Can a candidate committee or political action committee contribute to a ballot question campaign?
Yes, and there is no limit for individual contributions to a ballot question campaign.
Does my campaign material need a disclaimer?
Yes, campaign material should contain a disclaimer with specific phrasing depending on the material’s medium. Printed campaign materials should contain the phrasing: “prepared and paid for by the ....... committee, ....... (address/web address)”; if a written independent expenditure is produced and disseminated without cost, the words "and paid for" may be omitted from the disclaimer.
For broadcast campaigning, the disclaimer should be: "Paid for by the ....... committee." If the material is produced and broadcast without cost, the required form of the disclaimer is: "The ....... committee is responsible for the content of this message."
Do any campaign materials not need a disclaimer?
Yes, items that do not need a disclaimer are fundraising tickets, business cards, personal letters, or similar items that are clearly being distributed by the candidate.
Do independent expenditures in the form of campaign materials need disclaimers?
Yes, independent expenditures must contain the following disclaimer: "This is an independent expenditure prepared and paid for by ....... (name of entity participating in the expenditure), ....... (address). It is not coordinated with or approved by any candidate nor is any candidate responsible for it." The address must be either the entity's mailing address or web address, if the website includes the entity's mailing address. When a written independent expenditure is produced and disseminated without cost, the words "and paid for" may be omitted from the disclaimer.
For broadcast independent expenditures, the disclaimer phrasing should be: “This independent expenditure is paid for by ....... (name of entity participating in the expenditure). It is not coordinated with or approved by any candidate nor is any candidate responsible for it.” If a broadcast independent expenditure is produced and disseminated without cost, the following disclaimer may be used: "....... (name of entity participating in the expenditure) is responsible for the contents of this independent expenditure. It is not coordinated with or approved by any candidate nor is any candidate responsible for it."