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Quick Answers to General Questions

This page provides answers to frequently asked questions.  If you don't find an answer to your question here, please contact the FEC's Information Division, toll free at 800-424-9530 or by e-mail at info@fec.gov.

The PDF files linked on this web page may be viewed or printed using the free Acrobat Reader available from Adobe.


 

What does the FEC do?

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is an independent regulatory agency established in 1975 to administer and enforce the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). That statute limits the sources and amounts of the contributions used to finance federal elections, requires public disclosure of campaign finance information and--in tandem with the Primary Matching Payment Act and the Presidential Election Campaign Fund Act--provides for the public funding of Presidential elections. For more information on the FEC's role in regulating federal elections, see the brochure "The FEC and the Federal Campaign Finance Law."

Please note that the rules governing elections for state or local offices and procedures for getting on the ballot for an election are outside of the purview of the FEC. You will want to contact the Secretary of State or appropriate election office in your state for more information. For a guide to state offices, please see our Combined Federal/State Disclosure and Election Directory.

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How do I register to vote?

Visit the Election Assistance Commission web site and download a copy of the National Voter Registration Form.

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How much can I contribute?

Some of the contribution limits set forth in the federal campaign finance laws are adjusted every election cycle to account for changes in the consumer price index (CPI). In odd-numbered years, the FEC publishes the adjusted limits immediately after it receives the CPI figures from the Department of Labor -- typically in February or March. Until then, the Commission encourages donors not to exceed the limits for the previous election cycle. The chart below lists the limits for the current election cycle. A more detailed version of this chart is available as a stand-alone HTML table or a PDF table, suitable for printing.

Contribution Limits 2013-14
  To each candidate or candidate committee per election To national party committee per calendar year To state, district & local party committee per calendar year To any other political committee per calendar year1 Special Limits
Individual
may give
$2,600* $32,400* $10,000 (combined limit) $5,000 No limit
National Party Committee
may give
$5,000 No limit No limit $5,000 $45,400* to Senate candidate per campaign2
State, District & Local Party Committee
may give
$5,000 (combined limit) No limit No limit $5,000
(combined limit)
No limit
PAC (multicandidate)3
may give
$5,000 $15,000 $5,000
(combined limit)
$5,000 No limit
PAC
(not multicandidate) may give
$2,600* $32,400* $10,000 (combined limit) $5,000 No limit
Authorized Campaign Committee
may give
$2,0004 No limit No limit $5,000 No limit

* These contribution limits are indexed for inflation.
1. A contribution earmarked for a candidate through a political committee counts against the original contributor's limit for that candidate. In certain circumstances, the contribution may also count against the contributor's limit to the PAC. 11 CFR 110.6. See also 11 CFR 110.1(h).
2. This limit is shared by the national committee and the national Senate campaign committee.
3. A multicandidate committee is a political committee with more than 50 contributors which has been registered for at least 6 months and, with the exception of state party committees, has made contributions to 5 or more candidates for federal office. 11 CFR 100.5(e)(3).
4. A federal candidate's authorized committee(s) may contribute no more than $2,000 per election to another federal candidate's authorized committee(s). 11 CFR 102.12(c)(2).

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Can non-US citizens contribute?

Foreign nationals are prohibited from making any contributions or expenditures in connection with any election in the U.S. Please note, however, that "green card" holders (i.e., individuals lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the U.S.) are not considered foreign nationals and, as a result, may contribute. For additional information, consult our "Foreign Nationals" brochure.

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What are some other ways I can support a candidate?

The Federal Election Campaign Act and FEC regulations include a number of provisions intended to encourage individuals to become involved in campaigns.  For example, an individual can provide volunteer services to a candidate or party without considering the value of those service a contribution to the candidate or party. Individuals may also make independent expenditures supporting or opposing candidates, and may finance electioneering communications. However, both of these activities are subject to special reporting requirements. For more information on volunteering and other ways of supporting candidates, consult our Citizens Guide [PDF].

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What disclaimers must appear in political ads and mailings?

Political committees must include a clear and conspicuous disclaimer on all "public communications" (e.g., TV and radio ads, newspaper, magazine or outdoor advertising, and mass mailings or telephone banks to the general public). Public communications financed by individuals or other organizations must include a disclaimer if the communication expressly advocates a candidate's election or defeat or solicits funds. The disclaimers must indicate who paid for the communication and whether or not it was authorized by a candidate. Unauthorized ads must also include contact information for the sponsoring organization. For additional information, see our brochure, Special Notices on Political Ads and Solicitations.

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What is a 527 organization?

Entities organized under section 527 of the tax code are considered "political organizations," defined generally as a party, committee or association that is organized and operated primarily for the purpose of influencing the selection, nomination or appointment of any individual to any federal, state or local public office, or office in a political organization. All political committees that register and file reports with the FEC are 527 organizations, but not all 527 organizations are required to file with the FEC. Some file reports with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). For additional information on 527 organizations, please visit the IRS web site.

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Are there restrictions on political activity by churches and other charitable organizations?

Under the Federal Election Campaign Act, incorporated charitable organizations--like other corporations--are prohibited from making contributions in connection with federal elections. Unlike most other corporations, charities face additional restrictions on political activity under provisions of the Internal Revenue Code.

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What are the rules for activity conducted on the Internet?

While many campaign-related Internet activities are not subject to FEC regulations, some--most notably paid advertising--are subject to certain restrictions. For a summary, consult our Internet Communications and Activity brochure.

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