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Registration and reporting

Federal candidates and political committees must register with the FEC when they reach certain thresholds. Once registered, they file regular reports about their financial activity. Learn more about these groups and the requirements that apply to them.

Who registers and reports?

Candidates and candidate committees

An individual running for a seat in the House or Senate becomes a candidate when he or she raises or spends more than $5,000 in contributions or expenditures.

House and Senate candidates must designate at least one campaign committee. These authorized committees take in contributions and make expenditures for the candidate’s campaign. One of the candidate's authorized campaign committees must be designated as the candidate's principal campaign committee.

Learn more about candidates and candidate committees
Campaign guide
Federal Election Commission Campaign Guide: Congressional Candidates and Committees, June 2014 (PDF)
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Corporations and labor organizations

Corporations and labor organizations can't contribute to federal candidates, but they can establish and administer a special kind of political committee: the separate segregated fund (SSF).

An SSF can raise funds to make contributions to candidates — including expenditures that are coordinated with candidates — within the applicable contribution limits.

Who can set up an SSF?

  • Corporations (including those without capital stock)
  • Labor organizations
  • Incorporated membership organizations (including trade associations)
  • National banks
  • Incorporated cooperatives

The sponsoring corporation or labor organization is called the SSF’s “connected organization.” The connected organization can use its own money to solicit contributions to the SSF and to pay the costs of establishing and operating the SSF, for example staff salaries and office space.

SSFs may solicit contributions only from a limited group of people, including the connected organization’s executive or administrative personnel, its stockholders (if the connected organization is a corporation), or its members (if the connected organization is a labor organization or a membership organization).

Learn more about corporations and labor organizations
Campaign guide
Federal Election Commission Campaign Guide: Corporations and Labor Organizations, January 2007 (PDF)
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Political party committees

Forming a new national or state political party organization

You must register your party organization with the FEC when you raise or spend money over certain thresholds in connection with a federal election.

The FEC determines if a committee has demonstrated enough national (or state) activity to qualify as a national (or state) party committee. Before taking advantage of higher contribution limits available to these party committees, you’ll have to ask for an FEC advisory opinion to verify that your committee has attained national (or state) committee status.

If your party organization will be active only in state or local elections, you don’t need to register with the FEC.

Forming a local branch of an existing political party (for example, Democratic, Republican, Libertarian or Green party)

You must register your party organization with the FEC when you raise or spend money over certain thresholds in connection with a federal election.

When your local party organization is required to register with the FEC, it becomes a local party committee. Your local party committee is presumed to be affiliated with the other federal party committees in your state. Affiliated committees share limits on contributions made and received.

If your party organization will be active only in state or local elections, you don’t need to register with the FEC.

Learn more about political party committees
Campaign guide
Federal Election Commission Campaign Guide: Political Party Committees, August 2013 (PDF)
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Nonconnected committees

If you want to set up a Political Action Committee (PAC) — and your PAC is not a political party committee, a candidate’s authorized committee or a separate segregated fund (SSF) established by a corporation or labor organization — you can set up a “nonconnected” committee.

Members of congress and other political leaders often establish nonconnected committees, usually called Leadership PACs. Leadership PACs usually support candidates for various federal or nonfederal offices.

Super PACs and Hybrid PACs are another type of nonconnected committee. These committees must register and report all of their receipts and disbursements. If you are setting up a Super PAC or a Hybrid PAC, find more information on FEC.gov quick answers.

Learn more about nonconnected committees
Campaign guide
Federal Election Commission Campaign Guide: Nonconnected Committees, May 2008 (PDF)
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The best complete source for the rules that govern your federal campaign activity are the campaign guides.

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