General election non-party campaigning: reporting and record keeping

In our post Blogging, campaigning and the General Election we indicated that by the end of 2014 a handful of secular charities had decided to register under the provisions of the Transparency of Lobbying, (etc) Act 2014¸ in addition to two religious ones: The Salvation Army and Britain Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (but see Comments, below). We also suggested that more might possibly follow suit since the obligation to register within the regulated period only ends on Thursday 7 May 2015, the day of the general election.

On 23 January, the Electoral Commission circulated its 13th update on the rules on non-party campaigning which provided a reminder about pre-poll reporting and on record keeping. Although election day marks the end of the regulated period, this is subject to the caveat highlighted in the Electoral Commission Guidance Registering as a non-party campaigner which states [page 5]:

“If you are running a ‘general’ campaign … and you spend or plan to spend more than £20,000 in England or £10,000 in any of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland on ‘regulated campaign activity’ … during a regulated period, you must register … as a ‘registered non-party campaigner’.

You can register … at any time before or during a regulated period, but you must register … before you spend more than these amounts on regulated campaign activity during a regulated period.”

Likewise, there are requirements relating to the reporting of donations received during the regulated period, and these are summarized in the Commission’s guidance on pre-poll reporting, below. In view of the demands of pre-poll reporting and the penalties associated with registration and reporting, the timing of a decision to register as a non-party campaigner is of substantial importance to a body falling within the regulations. This post provides a brief recap of the criteria for registering as a non-party campaigner, and then considers the requirements imposed on registered campaigners by pre-poll reporting. Continue reading