How Much You Can Give to Political Candidates and Campaigns

Federal Election Commission Rules and Regulations

Hand signing check

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So you want to give some money to a political candidate. Maybe your congressman is seeking re-election, or an upstart challenger has decided to run against her in the primary and you want to throw some extra cash to the campaign.

How do you do it? How much can you give? Here's what you need to know before you write that check to your congressman's re-election campaign.

Individual Contribution Limits

The individual contribution limit for the 2019-2020 election year is $2,800 per federal office candidate committee, per election (this amount is assessed in odd-numbered years to adjust for inflation as needed). So during a general election year, you may contribute up to $2,800 toward a primary campaign and another $2,800 toward the general election on behalf of your candidate for a total of $5,400.

One way many households get around this limit is by having spouses make separate contributions to a candidate. Even if only one spouse has an income, both householders can write a check for $2,800 to a candidate during a single election cycle.

You likely have more questions about contributing to a campaign if you're wondering about limits. Here are answers to many you may have.

If I've Hit That Limit, Can I Give Money to Someone Else to Contribute?

No, you may not give money to someone else for them to contribute if you've personally exceeded the limit. Federal election laws prohibit someone who has contributed the maximum amount of money to a candidate in one election cycle from giving money to someone else to donate. Companies are also prohibited from issuing bonuses to employees for the purpose of writing checks to a candidate for federal office.

Can the Candidates Spend the Money However They Wish?

There are some limitations on how candidates can spend money. One of these is that candidates are not allowed to spend money contributed to campaign funds for any personal use.

The money you give to candidates for political office must be spent on campaign operations, though any money left over after an election may remain in the campaign account or be transferred to a party account, according to Federal Election Commission regulations.

What If I'm Not a U.S. Citizen or Resident?

If you are not a U.S. citizen or resident, you may not contribute to political campaigns. Federal election laws prohibit campaign contributions from non-U.S. citizens and foreign nationals living in the United States. However, those living in the United States legally—individuals carrying a "green card," for example—may contribute to federal political campaigns.

What If I Have a Contract With the Federal Government?

You are not allowed to contribute money to a political campaign if you have a contract with the federal government. According to the Federal Election Commission:

"If you are a consultant under contract to a Federal agency, you may not contribute to Federal candidates or political committees. Or, if you are the sole proprietor of a business with a Federal government contract, you may not make contributions from personal or business funds," ("Who Can and Can't Contribute").

However, you may contribute if you're merely an employee of a firm that holds a government contract.

How Do I Give Money to a Candidate?

There are several ways you can go about contributing money to a candidate. You can write a check to the campaign or contribute electronically via bank transfer, credit card charge, electronic check, or even text message.

Can I Use Bitcoins to Make a Contribution?

Yes, Americans are now permitted to use the electronic currency to support political campaigns or committees at the national level or give to other organizations that seek to influence federal elections in the United States. These donations will be valued based on bitcoin market value at the time of contribution.

Can I Give to a Party Rather Than a Candidate?

Yes, individuals are allowed to give as much as $35,500 to national political parties and $10,000 to state, district, and local parties over the course of a calendar year.

You can also give unlimited amounts of money to super PACs, which raise and spend money independent of political candidates but advocate nonetheless for the election or defeat of candidates.

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