Political & Election Law: Do Texas Filers Have to File a Special Legislative Session Campaign Finance Report with the Texas Ethics Commission?

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Special Session Reports are due with the Texas Ethics Commission no later than the 30th day after the final adjournment of the special session. The question is: Do you have to file one?

The answer depends on (i) what type of candidate you are (or support); and (ii) if so, whether contributions were accepted during the special session reporting period. In other words, the Special Session Report is an exception to the traditional Texas Ethics Commission Rule that requires a report to be filed even if you have no activity during the period. If you do not accept contributions during the period, you are not required to file the report.

First, a Texas filer is subject to the special session reporting obligation only if they are a statewide officeholder or candidate, candidate or a member of the legislature, officeholder or candidate for statewide judicial office, or the treasurer of a Specific-Purpose Committee (SPAC) that supports or opposes any of those listed above. If you are not on the preceding list, then you are not subject to filing the Special Session Report.

Second, if you are on the list above, then you need to ask a second question: Did you accept contributions between July 10, 2017 (the date the Governor signed the proclamation) and final adjournment of the special session? If so, then you must file a Special Session Report.

If you receive a contribution during the period, the contribution is deemed accepted unless it is returned within three days from the date of receipt. If there are contributions received near the beginning or end of the reporting period, recall that a contribution made by United States mail or commercial carrier is not considered received during that period if it was properly addressed and placed in the mail or with the commercial carrier before the beginning of the period. And if such a contribution is received, be sure to keep the envelop reflecting the postmark.

Keep in mind that the Special Session Report discloses information regarding contributions only, and not information regarding expenditures. All contributions disclosed in the Special Session Report must also be included on the next regular periodic report, e.g., the January 2018 Semi-Annual Report.

Also keep in mind that, although the Texas Constitution requires each special session to be no more than 30 days, there is no minimum length, no limit to the number of special sessions that can be called, and no requirement that there be a hiatus between the special sessions. Consequently, while the final adjournment date can be predicted for any particular special session, the status of the session must be continually monitored. For instance, the end date of the first special session, if it were to last the full 30 days, would be August 16, 2017, and the due date for the Special Session Report would be no later than September 15, 2017. However, if the business of the legislature is concluded earlier than August 16, 2017, then the latest date to file the Special Session Report would be earlier as well.

Additionally, if multiple special sessions are called, you may be required to file more than one Special Session Report. For example, if the Governor were to call a second special session to begin on September 1, 2017, by signing the proclamation on August 17, 2017, then a second Special Session Report would be due. The second Special Session Report would cover August 17 through the final adjournment date of the second special session (estimated to be September 30 in this example). Also, based on this example, any filer trying to avoid the Special Session Report by declining contributions would remain under the “self-imposed moratorium” from July 10 through September 30.

You can monitor the special session at: http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/sessions/sessionYears.cfm  You can check on the proclamations signed by the Governor at: https://gov.texas.gov/news/category/proclamation

This blog post was written by Shannon O’Leary, Of Counsel at The Gober Group. Shannon is a trusted legal advisor to corporations, federal and state PACs, and candidate committees on a full range of political, ethics, and compliance matters.