(1) In order to qualify as a committee of continuous existence for the purposes of this chapter, a group, organization, association, or other such entity which is involved in making contributions to candidates, political committees, or political parties, shall meet the following criteria:
(a) It shall be organized and operated in accordance with a written charter or set of bylaws which contains procedures for the election of officers and directors and which clearly defines membership in the organization; and
(b) At least 25 percent of the income of such organization, excluding interest, must be derived from dues or assessments payable on a regular basis by its membership pursuant to provisions contained in the charter or bylaws. Dues may be collected by a group, organization, association, or other such entity from its members and forwarded to the committee of continuous existence. The committee of continuous existence shall report such dues as if it had received the dues directly from its members, in the manner prescribed in subsection (4).
(2) Any group, organization, association, or other entity may seek certification from the Department of State as a committee of continuous existence by filing an application with the Division of Elections on a form provided by the division. Such application shall provide the information required of political committees by s. 106.03(2). Each application shall be accompanied by the name and street address of the principal officer of the applying entity as of the date of the application; a copy of the charter or bylaws of the organization; a copy of the dues or assessment schedule of the organization, or formula by which dues or assessments are levied; and a complete financial statement or annual audit summarizing all income received, and all expenses incurred, by the organization during the 12 months preceding the date of application. A membership list shall be made available for inspection if deemed necessary by the division.
(3) If the Division of Elections finds that an applying organization meets the criteria for a committee of continuous existence as provided by subsection (1), it shall certify such findings and notify the applying organization of such certification. If it finds that an applying organization does not meet the criteria for certification, it shall notify the organization of such findings and shall state the reasons why such criteria are not met.
(4)(a) Each committee of continuous existence shall file an annual report with the Division of Elections during the month of January. Such annual reports shall contain the same information and shall be accompanied by the same materials as original applications filed pursuant to subsection (2). However, the charter or bylaws need not be filed if the annual report is accompanied by a sworn statement by the chair that no changes have been made to such charter or bylaws since the last filing.
(b)1. Each committee of continuous existence shall file regular reports with the Division of Elections at the same times and subject to the same filing conditions as are established by s. 106.07(1) and (2) for candidates’ reports.
2. Any committee of continuous existence failing to so file a report with the Division of Elections pursuant to this paragraph on the designated due date shall be subject to a fine for late filing as provided by this section.
(c) All committees of continuous existence shall file their reports with the Division of Elections. Reports shall be filed in accordance with s. 106.0705 and shall contain the following information:
1. The full name, address, and occupation of each person who has made one or more contributions, including contributions that represent the payment of membership dues, to the committee during the reporting period, together with the amounts and dates of such contributions. For corporations, the report must provide as clear a description as practicable of the principal type of business conducted by the corporation. However, if the contribution is $100 or less, the occupation of the contributor or principal type of business need not be listed. However, for any contributions that represent the payment of dues by members in a fixed amount aggregating no more than $250 per calendar year, pursuant to the schedule on file with the Division of Elections, only the aggregate amount of such contributions need be listed, together with the number of members paying such dues and the amount of the membership dues.
2. The name and address of each political committee or committee of continuous existence from which the reporting committee received, or the name and address of each political committee, committee of continuous existence, or political party to which it made, any transfer of funds, together with the amounts and dates of all transfers.
3. Any other receipt of funds not listed pursuant to subparagraph 1. or subparagraph 2., including the sources and amounts of all such funds.
4. The name and address of, and office sought by, each candidate to whom the committee has made a contribution during the reporting period, together with the amount and date of each contribution.
5. The full name and address of each person to whom expenditures have been made by or on behalf of the committee within the reporting period; the amount, date, and purpose of each such expenditure; and the name and address, and office sought by, each candidate on whose behalf such expenditure was made.
6. The full name and address of each person to whom an expenditure for personal services, salary, or reimbursement for authorized expenses has been made, including the full name and address of each entity to whom the person made payment for which reimbursement was made by check drawn upon the committee account, together with the amount and purpose of such payment.
7. Transaction information from each credit card statement that will be included in the next report following receipt thereof by the committee. Receipts for each credit card purchase shall be retained by the treasurer with the records for the committee account.
8. The total sum of expenditures made by the committee during the reporting period.
(d) The treasurer of each committee shall certify as to the correctness of each report and shall bear the responsibility for its accuracy and veracity. Any treasurer who willfully certifies to the correctness of a report while knowing that such report is incorrect, false, or incomplete commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
(5) No committee of continuous existence shall make an electioneering communication, contribute to any candidate or political committee an amount in excess of the limits contained in s. 106.08(1), or participate in any activity which is prohibited by this chapter. If any violation occurs, it shall be punishable as provided in this chapter for the given offense. No funds of a committee of continuous existence shall be expended on behalf of a candidate, except by means of a contribution made through the duly appointed campaign treasurer of a candidate. No such committee shall make expenditures in support of, or in opposition to, an issue unless such committee first registers as a political committee pursuant to this chapter and undertakes all the practices and procedures required thereof; provided such committee may make contributions in a total amount not to exceed 25 percent of its aggregate income, as reflected in the annual report filed for the previous year, to one or more political committees registered pursuant to s. 106.03 and formed to support or oppose issues.
(6) All accounts and records of a committee of continuous existence may be inspected under reasonable circumstances by any authorized representative of the Division of Elections or the Florida Elections Commission. The right of inspection may be enforced by appropriate writ issued by any court of competent jurisdiction.
(7) If a committee of continuous existence ceases to meet the criteria prescribed by subsection (1), the Division of Elections shall revoke its certification until such time as the criteria are again met. The Division of Elections shall promulgate rules to prescribe the manner in which such certification shall be revoked. Such rules shall, at a minimum, provide for:
(a) Notice, which shall contain the facts and conduct that warrant the intended action.
(b) Adequate opportunity to respond.
(c) Appeal of the decision to the Florida Elections Commission. Such appeals shall be exempt from the confidentiality provisions of s. 106.25.
(8)(a) Any committee of continuous existence failing to file a report on the designated due date shall be subject to a fine. The fine shall be $50 per day for the first 3 days late and, thereafter, $500 per day for each late day, not to exceed 25 percent of the total receipts or expenditures, whichever is greater, for the period covered by the late report. The fine shall be assessed by the filing officer, and the moneys collected shall be deposited in the General Revenue Fund. No separate fine shall be assessed for failure to file a copy of any report required by this section.
(b) Upon determining that a report is late, the filing officer shall immediately notify the treasurer of the committee as to the failure to file a report by the designated due date and that a fine is being assessed for each late day. Upon receipt of the report, the filing officer shall determine the amount of fine which is due and shall notify the treasurer of the committee. The filing officer shall determine the amount of the fine due based upon the earliest of the following:
1. When the report is actually received by such officer.
2. When the report is postmarked.
3. When the certificate of mailing is dated.
4. When the receipt from an established courier company is dated.
Such fine shall be paid to the filing officer within 20 days after receipt of the notice of payment due, unless appeal is made to the Florida Elections Commission pursuant to paragraph (c). An officer or member of a committee shall not be personally liable for such fine.
(c) Any treasurer of a committee may appeal or dispute the fine, based upon unusual circumstances surrounding the failure to file on the designated due date, and may request and shall be entitled to a hearing before the Florida Elections Commission, which shall have the authority to waive the fine in whole or in part. Any such request shall be made within 20 days after receipt of the notice of payment due. In such case, the treasurer of the committee shall, within the 20-day period, notify the filing officer in writing of his or her intention to bring the matter before the commission.
(d) The filing officer shall notify the Florida Elections Commission of the repeated late filing by a committee of continuous existence, the failure of a committee of continuous existence to file a report after notice, or the failure to pay the fine imposed.
History.—s. 4, ch. 73-128; ss. 4, 16, ch. 74-200; s. 1, ch. 77-174; s. 42, ch. 77-175; s. 57, ch. 79-400; s. 26, ch. 81-304; s. 5, ch. 85-226; s. 6, ch. 89-256; s. 28, ch. 90-315; s. 1, ch. 90-338; ss. 6, 12, ch. 91-107; s. 1, ch. 95-140; s. 639, ch. 95-147; s. 6, ch. 97-13; ss. 3, 16, ch. 2004-252; s. 4, ch. 2006-300; s. 42, ch. 2007-30; s. 22, ch. 2010-167.