Campaign finance reports are documents required by regional and national law that disclose receipts and expenditures for political campaigns, i.e., campaigns for public office. Political candidates and parties in many nations are required to submit campaign finance reports during election campaigns. These reports contain detailed accounts of donations and expenses for the reporting period. A candidate or party must account for loans, election grants and donations, and other sources of funding in each report. Election officials review these reports to ensure compliance with limits on donation sizes and sources. The consequences for failure to report are determined by regional and national election commissions with fines common in most cases.
The treasurer of a political campaign or party must first explain all funds provided to the candidate during the reporting period. Political candidates often receive small donations from individuals that must be accounted fully to comply with election laws. Another source of funding is a political party committee, which is a special group created by a political party to assist candidates. Campaign finance reports must also detail contributions from political action committees (PACs) or groups created by corporations, unions, and other interest groups to support candidates. Candidates who wish to self-fund their campaigns must document loans from personal holdings.
These funds must be reconciled with expenditures from a political campaign during each quarter of an election period. In addition to monies spent on campaign advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts, candidates must provide detailed listings of office rentals and salaries paid out since their previous finance reports. Another element of a campaign finance report is a section dealing with payments to party committees. This expenditure is used by candidates with ample funds who want to assist their party as an election approaches. Campaign finance reports also require candidates to report donations from their treasuries to fellow candidates during the reporting period. This requirement ensures that candidates cannot use their campaign accounts as havens for excessive donations to fellow candidates.
Each campaign finance report is reviewed closely by regional and national election officials for compliance with law. These reports are reviewed initially to ensure that all sections are completed and supported by attached documents. Election officials also look at donations to and from each campaign through the lens of existing financial limits. Donor lists attached to campaign finance reports are examined for illegal contributions from foreign sources as well as unions and corporations without registered PACs.