Some keys to a smooth transition…
Q: Should inauguration and transition responsibilities be handled by the same people?
A: It could be okay for small offices with few government employees (such as state legislator or city councilman) where the “inauguration” is really a swearing-in alongside other elected officials. But for bigger offices with multiple departments (such as mayor or county executive), and where the inauguration is a big-time deal with galas and thousands of attendees—yes, absolutely, put different people in charge with clear lines of responsibility.
Q: Is it okay to use money left over from the campaign on the transition?
A: Maybe, but first check applicable laws regarding use of campaign funds. Since some jurisdictions provide a nominal transition budget or allow fundraising into a separate transition account, it might be unnecessary. You should also determine the legality of using leftover campaign funds for political purposes after taking office (e.g., meals, flowers for funerals, newsletters, website maintenance, retainer fees, etc.).
Q: What are the compliance requirements for campaign reports after Election Day?
A: It varies by jurisdiction. For example, congressional and Senate races are required to file post-election reports by Dec. 4, 2008 for the period ending Nov. 24. Most states and localities have similar requirements, but some do not. Check with your attorneys, compliance officers and the Board of Elections, Ethics Office or similar authority.
Q: We had a lot of bipartisan support in our campaign and need to maintain this support to win the next election. Is it okay to hire staff from the opposition party if they supported us? This would mean not hiring supporters from our own party.
A: It’s alright if you campaigned on a bipartisan platform of serving all the people of your district and, most especially, if you won in a nonpartisan election. But if you ran for an office with party primaries, don’t overdo it dance with the ones that brung you and who are responsible for re-nominating you next time around.
Q: Should we keep our furniture and supplies for the next campaign or get rid of everything?
A: Sell computers, phones and other electronic equipment, or donate them to charity, since the technology will be outdated by the next election. But put tables, chairs, desks, filing cabinets, stationery and office supplies into storage.
Q: How should we shut down staff, headquarters, material and other campaign operations?
A: One, help all staff find jobs—win or lose, they worked for you and deserve help. Two, make a list of all campaign promises and give them to the candidate to monitor in his or her future political career. Three, debrief everyone—candidate, family, steering committee, consultants, staff—on what worked and what didn’t, then put your findings into an exit memo. Four, clean the headquarters and leave it in pristine condition for the landlord. Five, take down all large signs you put up throughout the district. Six, pay all bills (the road to obscurity is paved with deadbeats). And seven, get all deposits for phones and utilities, and audit all media buys to get refunds on ads that were bumped or didn’t run.
Craig Varoga has run local, state and presidential campaigns for the past 20 years. He currently specializes in independent expenditures as a partner at Independent Strategies. E-mail questions to email@example.com.