Many people, in both political parties, are interested in learning how to start a political party. Federal election law confers certain benefits upon party committees in the federal, state and municipal levels, but just parties meeting certain criteria can use these benefits. The following benefits apply exclusively to non-partisan organizations.
The first benefit is a political party status. States generally have party registration requirements for both state and federal elections, but they vary among different jurisdictions. Political party status can be obtained if your organization meets the following qualifications: you are a United States citizen; have not been convicted of felonies or of any crimes involving dishonesty, fraud, or deception; have not taken any action that could reasonably have the effect of favoring one party over another; and are members of or affiliated with the national political party of your state. Party status cannot be applied to registered parties organized by a national political party.
The second benefit of party eligibility is that the party does not need to obtain permission to participate in any election. You do not need to obtain an election petition, or even an election invitation. Even if you have been accused of corruption or of attempting to influence an election in favor of a candidate, you can still run for office as a registered party without violating any laws. The party will not face any consequences if the candidate they backed loses the election. This means you can continue to support candidates in this election even though the candidate did not win.
The third benefit of party eligibility is that your members and supporters will not have to pay any election fees. Party registration fees and election expenses are not allowed to be deducted from your tax returns, so it is important to understand that the money that you save on fees and other costs could be used elsewhere. In addition, party candidates must disclose their party affiliation in order to receive funding from donors or from the party itself. If your candidate fails to meet these requirements, their name may not appear on the ballot and they will not be able to receive any public funding. Candidates who do not meet these requirements risk losing their candidacy. The money that they spend on these legal fees could be used on other candidates.
Lastly, political parties that meet these eligibility requirements do not have to reveal the names of their donors. These donors are not required to publicly announce their contributions. It is illegal to make these contributions unless the donors have publicly announced their intent to donate. Once you become a member of the political party, it is your responsibility to make sure that all donations are properly disclosed, as well as the identities of the donors. You may not disclose the identity of donors who give more than $1000 each election cycle.
Political party eligibility is only limited to those who wish to participate in the election process as registered parties. However, there are some states that allow people who are not members of the party to become unaffiliated members. Such individuals will usually need to register as new members in order to participate in the election. The requirements and guidelines will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.