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Limits on contributions made to candidates by the SSF

SSFs may make contributions to candidates and to their authorized committees. The limit on contributions from an SSF to a candidate or candidate’s committee depends on whether the SSF qualifies as a multicandidate committee.

Contributions from non-multicandidate SSF

During the 2017-18 election cycle, an SSF may contribute up to $2,700 per candidate, per election, unless it qualifies as a multicandidate committee.

Contributions from multicandidate SSF

An SSF that has qualified as a multicandidate committee may contribute up to $5,000 per candidate, per election. When making a contribution to a candidate or candidate’s campaign, a multicandidate SSF must give the recipient a written notification that it has qualified as a multicandidate committee. For convenience, the statement may be pre-printed on the committee’s checks, letterhead or other appropriate materials.

Gifts of money

Monetary contributions exceeding $100 must be made by check or other written instrument drawn on the SSF’s account.

Purchase of fundraising items and tickets

An SSF may purchase tickets to a fundraising event held by a candidate’s committee, or it may purchase items sold for fundraising purposes by the committee. The entire amount paid for a ticket or item is considered a contribution.

How the candidate limits work

House and Senate candidates

The limits on contributions to House and Senate candidates apply separately to each election in which a candidate participates. In House and Senate races, each primary election, general election, runoff and special election is considered a separate election with a separate limit. (A special election may itself involve separate primary, general and/or runoff elections, each with a separate contribution limit.) In some cases, a party caucus or convention is considered a primary election. The Commission strongly recommends that SSFs designate their contributions for a particular election

Party caucus or convention

A party caucus or convention constitutes a separate election only if it has the authority under state law to select a nominee for federal office. (Notable examples of these types of conventions are those held in Connecticut, Utah and Virginia.) Otherwise, there is no separate limit for a caucus or convention; it is considered part of the primary process.

Candidates who lose in the primary

A candidate is entitled to receive contributions for a particular election only if he or she seeks office in that election. Thus, a candidate who loses the primary (or otherwise does not participate in the general election) does not have a separate limit for the general.

Unopposed candidates; elections not held

An SSF may make a contribution to a candidate for a particular election even if:

  • The candidate is unopposed in an election; or
  • A primary or general election is not held because the candidate is unopposed or received a majority of votes in the previous election. 
  • The date on which the election would have been held is considered the date of the election. 

Presidential elections

All presidential primary elections held during an election year are considered one election for the purposes of the contribution limits. A multicandidate SSF, therefore, may give only $5,000 to a presidential candidate’s primary campaign, regardless of how many separate state presidential primaries the candidate participates in.

In the general election, a multicandidate SSF may contribute $5,000 to a candidate (and a non-multicandidate committee, $2,700) with some exceptions for candidates who have chosen to accept public funding. SSFs may contribute to a publicly funded presidential nominee’s “compliance fund.” A compliance fund is used solely for legal and accounting expenses incurred in complying with federal law. Gifts to compliance funds are considered contributions and are subject to the per-candidate, per-election limits.

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