The Campaign Doctor newsletter offers marketing tip for campaigns. I subscribe because their advice is often useful for thinking about how to best promote political ideas. A recent issue offered some disturbingly useful advice: a candidate should hire a campaign finance manager first, before anyone else. Yes, that’s just how onerous our campaign finance laws are.

How to determine who and what to hire for your campaign
By Chris Ingram

Most campaigns have limited resources. In today’s trying economy, scarce dollars requires even more prioritizing of expenditures than ever before.

Many candidates start their campaign with the idea that they will hire a pollster, a press secretary, a campaign manager, and so on – until they realize those guys (and gals) cost money. In most areas, anyone running for county commission, town council, school board, or the like ends up being their own manager, press secretary – I’ve even seen a few try to be their own pollster!

My advice to candidates is always this: the first person any campaign should hire is not a strategist, manager, or pollster – it’s a good accountant who will file their campaign finance reports. I also advise them not to rely on a friends or relatives who are accountants who will do it for free.

Allow your accountant friend or family member to serve as your campaign treasurer who signs the reports if you want, but you should pay a professional to do the grunt work and keep you out of trouble. And since you’re a paying client, they will return your phone calls, which free labor doesn’t always do.

The person in this role could be called lots of things, but I would call them your campaign finance compliance officer. Ideally they have familiarity with campaign finance law as well as accounting. This person is the most invaluable person on your campaign team and worth every penny. Filing bad campaign finance reports can be embarrassing, costly, distracting, and can result in civil fines and even criminal prosecution.

So when it comes to tracking donations, expenditures, campaign finance law, and disclosure reports, don’t skimp, pay up and hire a good campaign finance compliance officer.

Chris Ingram is the president and founder of 411 Communications a corporate and political communications firm, and publisher of Irreverent View. Ingram is a frequent pundit on Fox News and CNN, and has written opinion columns for the Washington Times, UPI, and National Review online.

Thanks to campaign finance laws, a candidate dare not move without a hired accountant to track and report contributions. That’s the predictable effect of demanding “transparency” (read: onerous reports) and “accountability” (read: hefty fines) in elections.

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