Put Your Opportunity Cost Where Your Mouth Is

Yesterday I received my first campaign contribution. It was a trifle surreal.

Perhaps I should back up.

Back in 2012, the city in which I live changed their district policies regarding school board elections. Rather than have a 7 member board who were all elected city-wide, each seat on the board would be tied to a smaller sub-district of the city. Theoretically this allows better representation, since people who might not be able to win in a city-wide election could possibly win in a smaller district that is walkable.

My wife and I have been active in the local public schools since the day our eldest started Kinder. Kitty has been our school’s PTA President, our PTA treasurer, and is now Council PTA President. We both have volunteered at numerous events, Kitty used to be on the school site for our school basically every day. Even now, when she’s spending time at other school sites in the district, she’s still on the local school site more days than not. I’ve served on our School Site Council for several years now (sitting Chairperson) and also on the district-level advisory board for school site councils citywide.

I’m probably not going to make any blog posts about the ongoing campaign in the upcoming months, although I’m writing down a lot of thoughts as they occur. Perhaps the “how to run a political campaign from somebody who’s tried it” series may be a project that comes out starting in April or so.

Why am I doing this? I have some issues with our current School Board that don’t need to be vetted out in this space. It’s sufficient to say that I think I could actually do some good donating roughly 30-40 hours a week for a second job that comes with a $400/month stipend but no other salary for the next four years.

I’m not doing this to start a political career… until recently I didn’t consider running for office. We talk a lot about politics on this blog, and aside from casting a ballot and campaigning for a parcel tax a while back, I haven’t done much more than talk.

So now it’s time to do. Wish me luck. Once I figure out precisely how I can ask people for money without getting myself in a pickle for doing it wrong, rest assured I’ll come blegging but it’ll just be the one time.

On those lines, I will offer a first observation: running for office requires filing paperwork across city, state, and federal agencies, all of which appear to have circular dependencies on each other, and none of which are remotely accessible to the layman without a seriously vexing amount of time. Our campaign finance laws are labyrinthine. There exists no real process-level approach to either, and they’re both therefore something that makes my systems-oriented brain ache.

In any event, this whole process will put a damper on my ability to participate in the blog much over the next couple of months. The Babylon recaps will come at irregular intervals… or, rather, more irregular intervals than currently. Although I expect to get the next one up today…

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8 thoughts on “Put Your Opportunity Cost Where Your Mouth Is

    • That’s the part I’m trying to finish figuring out today.

      You need an EIN to get money. All the EIN documentation on the IRS web site is slated towards small businesses, because they’re the normal folks who file for an EIN. As far as the IRS is concerned, as a political committee for local office, you don’t need to file a 88-something-something unless you expect to get over $25,000 in donations in a year (I don’t). But they expect that you’ve “formed your committee properly” when you file for the EIN, which is always ominous language to see from the Tax Man.

      You need the EIN to open a bank account, you need the bank account to form the committee at the state level. What I said about circular dependencies? That.

      In addition, it looks like all the campaign disclosure rules for California that apply to local elections apply to donations received in the last 90 days of the campaign. That is, I need to file a form 401 for every donor who donates more than X after date Y. But I don’t need to file those forms for anybody who donates prior to that (as far as I can tell). Which… yeah, if there’s a rule that lets incumbents hide where they’re getting money from…

      At any rate, I will gladly take money. When I know how to accept it without breaking any rules, I’ll let you know. I figure this race will cost about $100 per donor times 200 donors. Right now I’ve got 198.5 donors left to go at that donation level. Anybody that can offer more will be a godsend. Anybody who can offer less is still more water lifting the boat. If this is going to work, it’s going to be a “many small donors” effort more than a “I cut myself a check for $15 grand” kind of deal.


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