Campaign Finance Laws


The Federal Election Commision has six commissioners, appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate, who serve staggered six-year terms. No more than three commissioners may belong to the same political party, and the commissioners elect two members each year to act as Chairman and Vice Chairman. Due to its bipartisan structure, the FEC has been subject to gridlock, hampering its effectiveness.

Guidance: The FEC clarifies the FECA and other public funding statutes through regulations codified in the Code of Federal Regulations (Title 11). It also issues advisory opinions providing guidance in specific instances upon demand.

Enforcement: Enforcement actions are called Matters Under Review (“MUR”) and are confidential until they are concluded. Individuals or groups may file complaints that initiate a MUR, or FEC staff may initiate a MUR following reviewing a campaign’s reporting. Four of the six commissioners must vote to find that a violation has occurred, before the FEC may investigate the matter. If a violation is discovered, the FEC attempts to reach a concilliation agreement with the violator, requiring payment of a civil penalty or other remedial measures. If no agreement is reached, the FEC may file suite in U.S. district court.

Prohibitions: FECA prohibits corporations, labor organizations, federal government contractors, and foreign nations from making contributions or expenditures to influence federal elections. Furthermore, no individual may make a contribution in another’s name.

Disclosure: FECA requires candidate and party committees, as well as PACs to file periodic disclosure reports of contributions and expenditures. Candidates must identify the sources for any contributions greater than $200 in an election cycle, and must disclose all expenditures exceeding $200 per election cycle to an individual or vendor.

Contribution Limits

Cash: $100

Individual to Candidate: $2,600/election
Individual to Party Committee: $32,400/calendar year
Individual to District & Local Party Committee: $10,000/calendar year (combined)
Individual Overall Biennial Limit: $123,000 ($48,600 to all candidates, $74,600 to all PACs and parties)

Multicandidate PAC to Candidate: $5,000/election
Multicandidate PAC to Party Committee: $15,000/calendar year
Multicandidate PAC to District & Local Party Committee: $5,000/calendar year (combined)
Multicandidate PAC to Overall Biennial Limit: No limit

PACs that are not multicandidate PACs have contribution limits similar to an individual’s, but have no Overall Biennial Limit.

Independent Expenditures: Expenditures for communications that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified federal candidate, and which are not made in concert or cooperations with that (or the opposing) candidate’s campaign, are independent expenditures. There are no limits on independent expenditures, but they must be disclosed to the FEC.

Corporations and Unions: Corporations and labor organizations are prohibited from making direct contributions to, or expenditures for, federal campaigns. However, they may establish PACs.

Political Party Committees: Political party committees may contribute to federal campaigns, subject to contribution limits, registration with the FEC, and disclosure.

Presidential Election Campaign Fund:

1) Funded by voluntary tax checkoff on income tax returns ($3 individual, $6 joint filers), which directs money from the U.S. Treasury be used in Presidential elections.

2) Eligible candidates in Presidential primaries may have contributions from individuals may be matched up to $250 per individual. Participating candidates must raise more than $5,000 in matchable contributions in each of twenty different states, and must comply with spending limits (the base limit for the primary is $10 million adjusted for inflation, in 2012 the limit was $45.60 million).

3) In the Presidential general election, participating candidates may receive a grant ($20 million base adjusted for inflation, in 2012 the grant was $91.20 million). Participating candidates for the general election grants must agree not to accept private contributions, and to limit campaign spending to the amount of the grant.

4) Third party candidates may qualify for a grant after the general election if he or she received at least five percent of the popular vote.

5) Each major political party may receive a grant for its national Presidential nominating convention (base amount of $4 million adjusted for inflation, in 2012 the two parties each received $18.25 million).

New York
Contribution Limits

Based on formula calculated on basis of party enrollment in primary elections and on voter registration for general elections.

General statewide limit of $50,000 for public office, lesser amount based on number of voters for said election multiplied by $.05.

Contribution amount different if contributor was close relative of candidate.

Recalculations every four years based on cost of living.

Aggregate Individual Contributions to all Candidates permitted: $150,000/calendar year

Aggregate Corporate Contributions to all Candidates permitted: $5,000/calendar year

Aggregate PAC Contributions to all Candidates permitted: Unlimited

Receiving Contributions
o State Senate
▪ Primary – $6,500
▪ General – $10,300
o State Assembly
▪ Primary – $4,100
▪ General – $4,100
o State Wide Office
▪ Primary – Formula
▪ General – $41,100