Political Practices Commissioner’s Advice on Running for Office
For those planning to enter public service and want to run for office, there are very specific laws and regulations that must be learned and followed to ensure there will be no political campaign violations.
Who better to provide wise counsel on running for office than the Commissioner of Political Practices for the State of Montana, Jeff Mangan?
“First, they certainly have to file to run either with the Secretary of State’s office for statewide races, or with their local government for either city or county offices,” said Mangan. “They also have to file with us (the Office of Political Practices) with a Statement of Candidate form whether you’re running for a local government position or a statewide or district position and then, obviously, file campaign finance reports should they collect contributions or spend money on political advertising.”
Mangan said there are a multitude of rules that must be followed while running for public office.
“We have lots of different rules that people have to follow, so we’ve put of big emphasis on education, and if folks visit our website they’ll find a treasure trove of resources and guidance. You can certainly call our office or email us and we’ll be more than happy to assist.”
Mangan started with something as simple as a yard sign.
“If they put out an election communication or a yard sign, they have to properly attribute those, such as who’s paying for those, ‘paid for by John Smith for House District 45, Missoula Montana’ and the party they’re representing,” he said.
Mangan then addressed the relatively new political advertising venue of social media. “We treat social media like any other paid election communications, such as radio or television. Whether you’re advertising on Facebook, Twitter or You Tube, they have to properly attribute those ads and properly report the content of those ads in their campaign finance reports. Obviously, Facebook and You Tube are free platforms, since Twitter isn’t accepting political ads, and anybody can go out there and make a statement or put up an image for free, but a paid political announcement and the cost of that ad needs to be reported to my office.”
Mangan said there have been some improvements in the process of filing campaign finance reports.
“Starting this year, they’ll report three times before each election and then the month of the election,” he said. “They’ll report in March, April and May and then in June for the primary. Then in August, September and October for the general election and then a closing report for November. All those candidates will be required to report on the 20th and all committees will report on the 30th and then all that information will be made available to the public.”
Mangan also explained the procedure for filing an election complaint.
“You simply go to the website or call our office and ask for a complaint form,” he said. “You fill out the complaint form about what your grievance is and why they believe it’s breaking a practices or campaign finance violation and then we’ll investigate and go from there.”
Mangan said his best enforcement for political regulations is education, so he urges anyone with a question who is running for election to call his office right away in order to keep from violating campaign regulations. That number is (406)-444-2942.