Legal Q&A: Maintaining Campaign and Election-Related Accounts

By Scott Birrenkott

Q: Can a Customer Open a Campaign Finance Account?

A: Yes. Customers may seek to open campaign accounts, political action accounts, conduit funds, and other types of election-related accounts.

Because there is no list of specific documentation that banks must collect for such accounts, banks receiving requests to open these accounts will need to consider what should be collected based upon policy and procedure. As there can be many types of campaign and election-related accounts, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Banks will need to have a conversation with their customers to better understand the nature of the account requested. This article will use a state-related campaign as an example to illustrate an approach bank might take.

State-related campaigns must follow Wisconsin campaign and election laws. For example, a customer might run for mayor, or sheriff, and seek an account to maintain their campaign funding. The documentation the customer might have, and what documentation the bank might collect from the customer depends upon how the customer is holding funds, making contributions, disbursements, and fundraising. For this reason, the bank should consider having a conversation with the customer to better understand the campaign and use that information to gather any supporting documentation for confirmation of those details.

Bankers might also consider familiarizing themselves with the election process. Particularly if these accounts become common. It is not necessary to become an expert on Wisconsin campaign finance law, but familiarization with the process will go a long way in facilitating easier conversations with customers, knowing the right questions to ask, and to better request relevant information to maintain the account. For example, restrictions or reporting requirements might apply, depending on the campaign. While such requirements are generally the duty of a campaign’s treasurer to follow, from a “know-your-customer” perspective it is worth the bank taking the time to understand these details.

An example account title for such an account would be: John Doe for Sheriff by Jane Doe as Treasurer.

The law of campaign finance is complex. Furthermore, a customer might seek to open an account different than that used in the example above (ex: PAC, conduit, or federal election). Based upon this complexity and variety, a financial institution should also consider seeking assistance from its legal counsel in opening and maintaining such accounts.