Tyler Harber is right on the money (pun intended) in his post on the strategic value of financial filings. But there is an additional point to be made regarding strategy and financial filings. Strategically, a campaign must recognize the importance of the wording in your financial disclosure reporting, in particular in the itemized expenditure section.

Tyler mentions that the press and your opponent will look closely at your report—which is why you want to watch your wording. While you want to be absolutely accurate and legal in your campaign finance reports, there is a danger of giving TMI (Too Much Information). TMI will tip your opponent off to your campaign strategy and tactics. TMI can also make you look bad in the eyes of the press who don’t always understand the common use of opposition research by professional campaigns.

To eliminate some of these potential issues your campaign should take the time to review the wording of your campaign finance reports.

Instead of reporting that you spent $3,000 on a “Background check and public records search on Congressman X,” list the expenditure as “Issue research” or simply “Research.”

If your campaign spent money to do a fundraising mailer to veterans, there is no need to give that information to your opponent in your campaign finance report. Leave out specifics that are not legally required and might tip your strategic hand to your opponent. Just say “Printing” or “Direct Mail,” not “Printing for fundraising mailer to Veterans.”

To ensure that your finance report doesn’t include any unnecessary political information, your campaign should assign someone with political experience, preferably the consultant or campaign manager, to review the report once it has been compiled by the accountant.

Let’s face it: Your accountant is good with numbers but doesn’t have a clue about which expenditures could, when worded incorrectly, be a political liability.

One bonus financial filing tip: Warn your candidate about spending campaign funds on fancy restaurants for “strategy meetings.” Eating at Ruth’s Chris or Morton’s Steak House on your campaign’s dime just looks bad. The press may poke a little fun at your candidate’s expense; your donors may feel their donation is being misspent and may never give again.

To review: It is your ethical and legal responsibility to be accurate when filing your financial reports, but it is not necessary to give away your campaign’s strategy and tactics or use wording that can be used against you by the press or your opposition. Oh, and save the fancy dinner for after you win.


Brent Barksdale is senior vice President for Jamestown Associates, a full-service political consulting firm for Republicans. You can follow Brent Barksdale on Twitter @brentbarksdale and @politicaltips.