If you decide to contribute to a political candidate, you should know that the Federal Campaign Finance Law places legal limits on how much and what you can give. Representatives of the candidate's campaign committee should be aware of these laws and inform you of them. But, just in case...
Individual contribution limits for 2013-2014 election cycle
The following limits apply to contributions from individuals to candidates for all Federal offices.
- $2,600 per Election to a Federal candidate -- Each primary, runoff, and general election counts as a separate election.
- $32,400 per calendar year to a national party committee -- applies separately to a party's national committee, and House and Senate campaign committee.
- $10,000 per calendar year to state, district & local party committees
- $5,000 per calendar year to state, district & local party committee
Note: The Supreme Court’s April 2, 2014 decision in the case of McCutcheon v. FEC struck down the congressionally imposed two-year aggregate limit ($123,200 at the time) on contributions individuals could make to presidential and congressional candidates, political parties and some political action groups.
NOTE: Married couples are considered to be separate individuals with separate contribution limits.
Can anybody contribute?
Certain individuals, businesses, and associations are prohibited from making contributions to Federal candidates or political committees.
- Foreign nationals -- may not contribute to any candidate or party in any Federal, state, or local election in the United States. Foreign citizens who have permanent US residency status (posses a "green card") are allowed to contribute according to the same laws as American citizens.
- Federal contractors -- individuals or businesses under contract to provide goods or services to the Federal government are prohibited from contributing to candidates or parties in Federal elections.
- Corporations and Labor Unions -- are also prohibited form contributing. This law applies to all incorporated organizations, profit or non-profit. Business owners are not allowed to make contributions from their business accounts. Although corporations and labor organizations may not make contributions or expenditures in connection with federal elections, they may establish PACs.
- Cash -- in any amount over $100 is prohibited.
- Contributions in the name of another person -- are not permitted. Note: Parents may not make contributions in the names of their children. Persons under 18 may contribute, but must do so willingly, under their own names, and with their own money.
What constitutes a "contribution?"
Besides checks and currency, the FEC considers "...anything of value given to influence a Federal election" to be a contribution. Note that this does not include volunteer work. As long as you are not compensated for it, you can perform an unlimited amount of volunteer work.
Donations of food, beverages, office supplies, printing or other services, furniture, etc. are considered "in-kind" contributions, so their value counts against contribution limits.
Important: Questions should be directed to the Federal Election Commission in Washington, DC: 800/424-9530 (toll free) or 202/694-1100.