UPDATE: The Commission on May 11, 2023 voted to issue formal guidance on this issue, endorsing in concept the following statement: "When, with the written approval of the contributor, a candidate is transferring contributions left over from a previously completed election campaign, whether or not designated as surplus funds, to a new campaign for a different office, those contributions that are moved to the new campaign must be attributed to their sources, and count toward the contributor's limit for the new campaign. Each contributor whose written approval was obtained must be identified along with their contribution."
A candidate who solicits contributions for a state, local, or judicial office may not use those contributions to seek a different office without first obtaining written approval from the persons or entities who donated the contributions. RCW 42.17A.490. This is true whether a candidate registers for one office and then decides before the election to seek a different office, or whether the candidate wants to use funds left over after an election to seek a different office in a subsequent election. Even though written permission must be obtained in both circumstances, how the contributions being transferred to the new campaign are treated does vary.
Switching Offices Before the Election
If, for example, a candidate decides to run for the state senate after first registering and collecting money for a state house race, the candidate may not transfer contributions received for the house race to the senate campaign without first getting written approval from the contributors of the money remaining in the house campaign account as well as from donors of any remaining in-kind contributions (e.g., computers, copiers, etc.).
To identify the donors of the remaining funds, start with your most recent contribution, then the next most recent, etc., until you can attach names to all of the contributions remaining in the campaign you are ending. Contact all of these contributors. With their written approval, you may move their funds from the first campaign account to the new account. If someone does not send written approval, that contributor's donation may NOT be used for the new campaign and must be disposed of under one of the other permissible uses of surplus campaign funds, as discussed below.
Each contribution that is transferred from an active campaign to a new campaign is attributed to and counts against the contributor's limit for the office now being sought.
A candidate who wants to use surplus funds from a previous campaign to seek an office different from the one for which the donations were collected must also get written approval to do so. Use the first in, first out process described above for identifying whose contributions are left. Again, when written permission is not provided by a contributor, the contribution may not be used for the new campaign, but must be spent for one of the other purposes outlined under Surplus Campaign Funds discussed below.
When a candidate is transferring contributions left over from a previously completed election campaign to a new campaign for a different office, those contributions that are moved to the new campaign are NOT attributed to their sources, nor do they count against the contributor's limit for the new campaign. The funds are simply moved as a lump sum of surplus funds to the new account. There might be a succession of transfers to the new account, depending on when the campaign receives the written permission. On the C-3 report showing the deposit of the surplus money, simply note that surplus funds from a previous campaign are being deposited into the account with permission from the donors. (Keep these permission notices as part of the campaign records. Do not send copies of them to PDC unless requested by PDC to do so.)
Candidates who want to move funds from a Surplus Funds Account into a campaign account will also have to obtain written permission from the original contributors of the funds if the monies are to be used to seek an office different than the one which was sought at the time the contributions were given.
Transferring Funds from a Federal Campaign
These instructions do not apply to a candidate who wants to move federal campaign money to a state campaign. Candidates with federal campaign should contact the Federal Elections Commission and the PDC staff to discuss whether the funds may be transferred.