How to run FECFile on a Mac
Updated: Oct 4, 2019
There is some pretty great third party software out there for filing federal campaign financial reports, but they all cost money. I recently started working with a Federal PAC that does not have very much money, but still needs to file reports with the FEC. Often it is a battle to convince a committee that spending money on compliance matters, because spending money on compliance means that the committee is not spending money on it’s stated cause. In this case, the cause is getting women elected to office, so I sympathize with the sentiment.
Every campaign finance oversight body, whether it is at the state or city level, will offer some sort of free filing software. This software generally ranges from Meh to Terrible. Sometimes the software is web-based (Colorado and NYC CFB for example). Sometimes the software is a stand-alone that has to be downloaded to your computer (NY State and the FEC for example). I would rank the FEC’s software as Meh, except for one huge problem: their software does not run on Macs.
Macs account for maybe 10%, probably less, of all computers used in the US. However, this stat is skewed by businesses and schools. From my personal experience knowing people who work in politics, I have to assume that at least half of the population is dealing with a Mac. Especially if the compliance professional is a freelancer or is bringing their own computer to the office.
This leaves two obvious options for dealing with this PC-only software: a) pay for compliance software that runs on a Mac and communicates with the FEC, such as NGP or Aristotle; or b) buy a PC to run the free FECFile software on.
So, here I am, a compliance professional with a Mac, helping out a campaign that cannot afford either. Here are the steps I took to run FECFile on my Mac:
First, visit WineHQ and download the stable package. At this writing, the are on Wine 3.0.
Install this package and follow any instructions on screen for other updates your machine might need. In my case, I was just told that I need XQuartz 2.7.7 or higher, so I googled XQuartz and downloaded that software.
Once you get through any updates that Wine needs you to run, download FECFile.
Once this is downloaded, the FECFile software, which is downloaded as an .exe file, will show up in your downloads folder with a wine glass logo. Click on this and Wine will do its very best to run whatever updates are needed for the FECFile software. For me, I had to accept four different download updates, which Wine handled for me. When I used Wine 2.0 to install FECFile on my laptop, I had to install an update of Java specific to Windows within the Wine application. Attempts to update Java on my Mac were not recognized. If you run up against a situation where you need to install the Windows version of an application, google the version you need, make sure you download the file with the .exe extension and then open it with Wine so that Windows applications recognize it.
Back to FECFile: After you click on the wine logo version of the FECFile download it will pop open and install. Don’t change the location of the installation, this is not necessarily where your backup file has to live. Once FECFile is installed successfully, the software will open up and you can begin a new Committee File or open an existing one. I recommend keeping your data file in a dropbox file if you plan to use more than one computer, or at least backing up to Dropbox. It makes me very nervous to keep a data file on a computer with no cloud backup, especially with my propensity to spill wine and coffee on my computer.
I also highly recommend making sure you are filling out the right filing form. I wasted a day of my life entering data into the wrong form, which was a bummer. You can export and import a list of contacts between committee files, but I couldn’t find a way to export and import data. The FEC has a YouTube channel that can walk you through using FECFile and can help you ensure you are submitting the correct forms. Or, you can ask your committee lawyer, which everyone should have.