Community members forming political action committees to support a school district bond measure have asked for clarification of rules regarding registering their PACs. OSBA learned the following from the state elections division:
Community members can organize an advocacy group (political action committee or PAC) to support a measure before the district officially files the measure. The group can give itself a name, appoint a treasurer, open a bank account, collect contributions and make expenditures. The treasurer must keep careful records of financial activities.
Once the school district officially files the measure with the county clerk and the measure is certified and given a number, the advocacy group must file forms SEL 221 and SEL 223 with the elections division, not the county clerk. The forms are in the state's 2008 Campaign Finance Manual and may be filed electronically on the secretary of state's ORESTAR system, after which the treasurer must account for and file all of the committee's contribution and expenditure transactions electronically.
Contributions to a school measure advocacy committee are tax deductible once the measure is certified and the committee is registered with the state.
The Oregon Secretary of State Elections Division cautions districts not to file earlier as a miscellaneous committee. School bond/local options advocacy committees do not fit the definition of a miscellaneous committee. School committees that file as miscellaneous and do not support multiple candidates and measures may face penalties if questioned about their activities.
School districts and other local governments often wait until near the deadline to file their measures for the following reasons:
To make sure bond costs are as accurate as possible and all elements to be paid for with bond proceeds are included in the ballot title.
To be allowed to continue the discussion within their communities about the need for and benefits of the bond measure. Under ORS 260.432, once the district officially files a measure with the county clerk, discussions and district communications that include information of this nature are prohibited.
Once a measure is officially filed, as ORS 260.432 states: "No public employee shall solicit any money, influence, service or other thing of value or otherwise promote or oppose any political committee, or promote or oppose the nomination or election of a candidate, the gathering of signatures on an initiative, referendum or recall petition, the adoption of a measure or the recall of a public office holder while on the job during working hours."