Current Political Campaign Contribution Limits

For the 2020 Primary and General Elections

Money bag and stack in political hats
Money and Politics: Together Forever. Getty Images

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...

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has released the campaign contribution limits for individual private citizens for the 2019-2020 election cycle, including the presidential election on November 3, 2020. The per-calendar year limits became effective on January 1, 2019.

The amount an individual can contribute to a candidate for each election was increased to $2,800 per election, up from $2,700. Since each primary and the general election count as separate elections, individuals may give $5,600 per candidate per cycle. 

The following chart shows more details on the FEC campaign contribution limits for individuals in 2019 and 2020:

An individual may contribute to …

Federal Candidates $2,800 per election
National party committees— main account $35,500 per year
National party committees—convention account (RNC and DNC only) $106,500 per year
National party committees—party building account $106,500 per year
National party committees—legal fund account $106,500 per year
State or local party committees’ federal accounts $10,000 per year
Federal PACs $5,000 per year

Note: Contributions to the three national party special accounts (convention, building, and legal) can be used only to pay for expenses related to presidential nominating conventions, headquarters buildings of the party, and election recounts, contests, and other legal proceedings.

Note: Married couples are considered to be separate individuals with separate contribution limits.

Notes on Contributions to Presidential Campaigns

The contribution limits work a little differently for presidential campaigns.

  • You can contribute a total of up to $2,800 to presidential candidates running in state primaries, but the donation is for the entire primary election period. You cannot donate $2,800 for each state primary in which the candidate is running.
  • A portion of your contribution may qualify to be matched by the federal government. If a candidate running in a primary election has qualified for the federal matching fund program, up to $250 of your total contributions to that candidate may be matched with federal funds. To qualify for federal matching, your contribution must be made in written form, such as a check. Contributions such as currency, loans, goods and services, and any type of contribution from a political committee do not qualify for federal matching. In the general election, however, you may not make any contributions to the campaigns of Democratic or Republican nominees who receive Federal funds.

Can Anybody Contribute?

Certain individuals, businesses, and associations are prohibited from making contributions to Federal candidates or political action committees (PACs).

  • 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 from 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.

Public Funding of Presidential Elections

Not all of the money spent by presidential candidates comes from donations by individuals. Since 1974, eligible presidential candidates have been allowed—should they choose to do so—receive money from the taxpayer-supported presidential public funding program. Administered by the FEC, the presidential public financing system is funded by an optional $3 tax check-off on individual tax returns. The public funding program provides a “matching” program for the first $250 of each contribution made to the candidate during the primary campaign and funding for the general election campaigns of the major party’s nominees.

To qualify for public financing, presidential candidates must show broad-based public support by raising more than $5,000 in each of at least 20 states on their own.

Presidential candidates receiving public financing must also agree to:

  • Limit campaign spending for all primary elections combined to $10 million-plus a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).
  • Limit campaign spending in each state to $200,000 plus COLA, or to a specified amount based on the number of voting-age individuals in the state whichever is greater.
  • Spend no more than $50,000 of their own money.

While the number of people choosing to participate in the $3 tax return check-off that funds the program has been decreasing (down from a high of 28% in 1977 to less than 6% in 2016) the fund has been growing steadily—because the major candidates no longer choose to accept the money. The public financing program has become unpopular with presidential candidates because the funds available to them no longer keep pace with private campaign contributions.

In 2000, former president George W. Bush became the first major party candidate to refuse to take matching funds for the primaries and caucuses. Former President Barack Obama became the first candidate to turn down public financing for the general election in 2008. 

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Longley, Robert. "Current Political Campaign Contribution Limits." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Longley, Robert. (2021, February 16). Current Political Campaign Contribution Limits. Retrieved from Longley, Robert. "Current Political Campaign Contribution Limits." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 24, 2023).