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Understanding independent expenditures

An independent expenditure is an expenditure for a communication that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate and which is not made in coordination with any candidate, or his or her authorized committees or agents, or a political party committee or its agents.

Individuals, corporations, labor organizations and political committees may support (or oppose) candidates by making independent expenditures. Independent expenditures are not contributions.

Independent expenditures are not subject to any contribution limits but may be subject to reporting requirements. (The campaign of a candidate benefiting from an independent expenditure has no reporting obligation.) A communication representing an independent expenditure must display a disclaimer notice.

Campaign staff should pay special attention to the page on “Coordinated communications” which explains when the independence of an expenditure is compromised through contact with a campaign and thus results in an in-kind contribution, subject to contribution limits, to the campaign. If a corporation or labor organization funds the coordinated expenditure, it results in a prohibited contribution.