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527 Political Organizations

Q1. What is a 527 Political Organization?

A1.  "527" refers to a section of the Internal Revenue Code governing a type of tax-exempt political organization. 527s are typically federal organizations created to influence or attempt to influence the selection, nomination, election, or appointment of candidates.   

 

Q2. Does a 527 Political Organization have to register and file with your office?

A2.  "527s" must register and report to our office if the organization:

  • Makes expenditures for communications that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate or candidates in Colorado, and
  • Is exempt or intends to seek exemption from taxation by the IRS

Organizations who engage in activity that does not meet the standard of express advocacy as outlined in Rule 1.10, are not required to register and report with the Secretary of State’s Office. Organizations that do engage in express advocacy may want to consult the Internal Revenue Code as it relates to political activity and tax exempt status and consider registering a political committee in Colorado as an alternative.

 

Q3. Where else does a 527 have to file?

A3.  527 Political Organizations are required to file disclosure reports with the IRS for activities relating to federal candidates (President, United States Senator or United States Congressman).

 

Q4. How do we register a 527 Political Organization?

A4.  You must register online.   

Before registering, make sure that you have:

  • The committee name and any acronyms that you use.
  • A registered agent.
  • The registered agent's email address and phone number.
  • Physical and mailing addresses for the committee's principal place of business.
  • A description of your organization's purpose.  This information should be detailed, including candidates, ballot measure numbers, or policy positions that you will support or oppose.
  • Financial information, including the name of the bank where the committee has or will have an account.

To register:

  1. Go to the TRACER campaign finance disclosure website.
  2. Click on the "Committee Registration" button.
  3. Select "527 Political Organization", then click on "Next".
  4. Fill out the form.  When you are finished, click on "Submit".
  5. Print a copy of the form for your records.
  6. Click on "Finished" to complete your registration.
  7. Login information will be sent to the registered agent's email address.

If you need help using TRACER, see Learn to Use TRACER.

 

Q5. Does a 527 have to file disclosure reports?

A5.  Organizations who register as a 527 with our office must report all contributions and expenditures that were accepted or made for the purpose of expressly advocating for the election or defeat of any individual to any state or local public office, unless the contributions accepted and expended by the organization amount to less than $20 for a reporting period.

 

Q6. When do we have to file disclosure reports?

A6.  See the Filing Calendars.

 

Q7. What is a registered agent?

A7.  A registered agent is the person to whom all correspondence about the committee will be addressed.  He or she is also responsible for maintaining committee records and filing reports on time.  The registered agent must be a natural person.

In addition to the candidate or the registered agent, the committee may also appoint a designated filing agent to be responsible for the timely filing of Contribution and Expenditure reports.

 

Q8. Do we have to have a registered agent?

A8.  Yes.  All committees registered with our office must have a registered agent.

 

Q9. How do we change our registered agent?

A9.  A committee can file an amended registration to change the registered agent. 

A registered agent can also resign. To resign, a registered agent must file a resignation letter with the appropriate filing officer via certified mail.

There must be a registered agent associated with each committee at all times.

 

Q10. Where can I find more information about 527 Political Organizations?

A10.  For definitions and more information about this type of group, consult the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Our site only discusses this type of group to the extent that they are subject to Colorado campaign finance law.

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Q11. What do we have to report to your office?

A11.  Reports must include all contributions and expenditures that were accepted or made for the purpose of influencing or attempting to influence the selection, nomination, election, or appointment of any individual to any state or local public office, unless the contributions accepted and expended by the organization amount to less than $20 for a reporting period.

Contributions of $20 or more must include the name and address of the contributor. 

Contributions of $100 or more must include the contributor’s name, address, employer and occupation.

527 organizations must comply with all applicable IRS and federal regulations in addition to complying with Colorado law. For more information, consult the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

 

Q12. Do we have to file a report if we receive no contributions and have no spending in a reporting period?

A12.  No.  527 Political Organizations are not required to file reports for reporting periods in which no contributions were received and spending was less than twenty dollars ($20) for Colorado political activities.

 

Q13. Are 527 Political Organizations required to file Electioneering Communication reports?

A13.  Any person, including 527 Political Organizations, who spends one thousand dollars ($1,000) or more on electioneering communications in a calendar year must file electioneering communication reports with our office.

Electioneering communications refer to print, radio, TV and any other communication that unambiguously refer to any candidate and are distributed within 30 days of a primary election or 60 days of a general election.  See electioneering.

 

Q14. How do I access disclosure reports filed by 527 Political Organizations?

A14.  Disclosure reports filed with our office or a county clerk by 527 Political Organizations can be viewed in TRACER 

Contact the appropriate municipal clerk for reports filed with municipalities. 

Disclosure reports filed with the IRS are available through the IRS searchable database

 

Q15. How do I amend our registration?

A15.  Amendments can be filed by logging into the TRACER website. 

You can use an amendment to change name, address, purpose, and financial institution information.

Amendments must be filed within 10 days of a change.

 

Q16. How long do we have to keep our records?

A16.  Committees/candidates must keep their records for 180 days following any general election in which the committee or party received contributions. 

If a complaint is filed, the records must remain available until the matter is resolved.

 

Q17. Are there limits on what a 527 Political Organization can receive or spend?

A17.  Colorado law does not place limits on the amount of money that can be contributed to or spent by 527 Political Organizations. 

Contributions or spending of more than one hundred dollars ($100) cannot be made in cash or coin. [1]  In other words, contributions and spending exceeding one hundred dollars ($100) must be made by check, money order, credit card, etc.

 

Q18. Can a candidate make a contribution to a (Federal) 527 political organization from his or her candidate committee?

A18.  No. Candidate committees are formed to support the nomination or election of a candidate to a state or local office; 527 organizations are allowed to support issues as well as candidates, so this type of contribution is not allowed. If contributions are made by a candidate committee to a 527 organization, the contributions must be returned to the candidate committee.


Q19. Can a candidate committee give unexpended campaign contributions to (Federal) 527 political organizations for political issue education?

A19.  No. 527 organizations can support or oppose a wide variety of issues. Political issue education [2] is issue education that is personal to the candidate. In other words, political issue education is limited to educating the elected official on legislative issues directly affecting their constituents, or the elected official educating his/her constituents about the issues directly affecting those constituents.

 

Q20. What Colorado statutes and rules apply to 527 Political Organizations?

A20.  The following provisions apply to 527 Political Organizations:

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[1] C.R.S. 1-45-108.5
[2] C.R.S. 1-45-106(1)(b)(II)