Careful How You Invest That Campaign Cash

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Q: Is it legal to invest campaign funds in stocks, bonds and mutual funds?

A: Token opposition, extra cash--we all should be so lucky in this time of economic uncertainty. Yes, it's usually legal to invest campaign donations, but almost never possible to convert accrued interest into personal use. Laws and rules, especially reporting requirements, vary by jurisdiction, but most often interest must be put back into the campaign bank account. And the trend is toward greater transparency. For example, the Texas Ethics Commission this summer adopted a rule requiring that campaign reports include the total balance on deposit in banks, savings and loans, and other depository institutions, as well as "the present value of any investments that can be readily converted to cash, such as certificates of deposit, money market accounts, stocks, bonds, treasury bills, etc."

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In any case, exercise extreme caution. Vet, legally and politically, any decision to invest campaign funds. And be prepared for very bad "donor mojo" (and overtime damage control) if failed investments reduce your cash-on-hand.

Q: I am working on constituent outreach in preparation for next year's legislative session. Can you provide advice as we craft our plan and strategy, such as talking points, media releases, constituencies and venues?

A: Get feedback from constituents on likely issues. For instance, use town hall meetings, e-mails and direct mailers, and appearances at civic clubs to ask what legislative remedies they want. Announce the results through the news media, newsletters, e-mails and your website. During the session, continue this two way conversation. And post-session, summarize your successes and unfinished business so that you're prepared for the next legislative round.

Q: Great question about robocalls last month. But could we hear more about why some groups are so passionate in opposing them, especially now that it's almost GOTV time? …