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Establishing a Political Committee

An effective political program is essential for IAFF affiliates to be successful in the legislative arena. Legislation and politics go hand-in-hand, and to successfully promote fire fighter issues at the city, county, state and federal levels, IAFF members must be active on both fronts. You must become politically active to change the environment in which you operate, especially if incumbent officeholders consistently oppose the legislative interests of professional fire fighters and emergency medical personnel. You may not always be successful in these endeavors, but elected officials will begin to take notice, and those who once opposed your interests may rethink their positions. After all, most incumbents would prefer to have the support of fire fighters rather than have them working for their opponents.

The first steps to becoming politically active are to create a political committee, establish a realistic budget and develop a campaign plan. Depending on the size of the local, a political committee can be created among existing officers, or a new committee could be established to encourage greater member participation in the local. The political committee can be an ad hoc committee of the local and be incorporated into the by-laws of the committee.  Click here for sample of by-laws for a political committee.  

Establishing a PAC Fund

To effectively influence the public to support or oppose a candidate, your local must create an in-state political action committee (PAC) to pay for any expenditures it may incur during the course of a campaign. 

The political committee should review state election laws to ensure everything it wants to undertake complies with the law. While a number of states allow unions to spend dues money for political contributions, you will still be required to form a separate PAC account. 

Consider any contribution limits on either donations to the candidate or a party committee and if it’s permissible to use union dues money in your state or if you must rely on individual voluntary contributions (see list of states).

In addition, determine if any reporting requirements exist and if is there a regular reporting cycle. Also double check to ensure there aren’t any additional county or municipal campaign finance laws with which you will need to comply. 

To ensure that your local is in compliance with both state and local election laws, as well as IRS codes, the IAFF strongly recommends that any local with a PAC fund establish a separate segregated fund account. By keeping treasury and political funds separate, errors are less likely to occur. If you are in a state that permits the use of treasury funds (union dues) for political purposes, the IRS and the IAFF recommend that you separate your deposits when receiving money from the employer. The IAFF has drafted a bank account chart that illustrates how a local should set up its various accounts. 

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