Congress Passes Deal to Drastically Raise Political Donation Limits

Individuals will soon be able to donate three times the amount that is currently permissible by law.
Photographer: Larry Gilpin via Getty Images

If money is the life blood of politics, things in Washington are about to get livelier. Thanks to a provision in the new spending bill, an individual donor will soon be able to make political donations of $1.5 million over a two-year period. 

The deal to increase the donation limit is tucked into the omnibus spending bill and will allow individual donors to give $97,200 per year to a separate DNC or RNC account solely for defraying expenses related to running a presidential convention. That's up nearly three times the current limit of $32,400 per calendar year. Each major party has three of these. The Democrats have the Democratic National Committee (the umbrella group), the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (for Senate campaigns) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (for House campaigns). The Republican equivalents are the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

The bill would also allow ALL six committees to raise up $97,200 per year into a separate building fund that could be tapped to pay for construction, renovation or repaying loans. The six groups could each raise another $97,200 per year into another fund that could be used to prepare for election recounts and challenges "and other legal proceedings."

Add all of that up, and one donor theoretically could give a total of $777,600 in one year and $1,555,200 over two years to all of one party's national accounts, according to Common Cause. That number will be a little higher in the 2015-2016 after the donation limits are indexed for inflation. It's unclear how many (if any) wealthy donors will approach the limits; it's a very select group of people who give seven figures every election cycle. 

Though they cannot accept unlimited funds from individual donors, the national parties have groused about campaign money as outside groups like super-PACs and 501(c) nonprofits accept funds in unlimited amounts to influence elections. The 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance law banned the national parties from raising and spending so-called "soft money," the unlimited and largely unregulated funds that they used to air issue ads on television.

Check out the details of the new deal for yourself, if you dare. The campaign finance language in the omnibus starts on page 1,534, tucked in a section innocuously titled, "Division N - Other Matters." Bills aren't written in plain English, so you'll need to consult the relevant sections of the federal code to which the bill refers.

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