Presidential candidates raised and spent $1.5 billion during the 2015-2016 election cycle, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission that cover activity from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2016. Congressional candidates collected and disbursed $1.6 billion, political parties received and spent $1.6 billion, and political action committees (PACs) raised and spent $4 billion and in the 24-month period. Disbursements for independent expenditures reported in this period totaled $1.6 billion. Electioneering Communications totaled $56.1 million and communication costs reported to the Commission totaled $28.7 million.
Activity from Jan. 1, 2015 through Dec. 31, 2016
(figures in millions)
|2016 Presidential Candidates||$1,539.1||$1,527.1|
|2016 Congressional Candidates||$1,644.3||$1,597.0|
This summary of campaign activity in the 2015-2016 election cycle provides a benchmark for comparison with the same reporting period in previous cycles. Supporting data tables are linked at the end of each summary section below.
I. Presidential candidates
As of December 31, 2016, 110 individuals had filed campaign finance reports disclosing financial activity in connection with the 2016 presidential election. These candidates reported raising $1.5 billion and spending $1.5 billion from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2016. Their combined cash-on-hand was $15.9 million, while their combined debt was $15.3 million as of December 31, 2016.
The following table summarizes campaign finance activity of presidential candidates through December 31 of the election year since the 2003-2004 election cycle.
24-Month financial activity of Presidential candidates*
(figures in millions)
|Year||Candidates||Receipts||Disbursements||Debts Owed||Cash on Hand|
Data summary tables for reports submitted to the Commission through December 31, 2016 by 2016 presidential candidate committees can be found here. Historical campaign finance activity for presidential candidates can be found here.
II. Congressional candidates
United States House and Senate candidates running in the 2016 election cycle reported raising a total of $1.6 billion and spending $1.6 billion between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2016. Candidates for the two chambers reported combined total debts of $83.4 million and combined total cash-on-hand of $328.9 million as of December 31, 2016.
The following table summarizes campaign finance activity of House and Senate candidates through December 31 of election years since the 2005-2006 election cycle.
24-Month financial activity of Congressional candidates*
(figures in millions)
|Year||No. of Cand.||Receipts||Disbursements||Debts Owed||Cash on Hand|
The 217 candidates running for Senate in 2016 reported total receipts of $594.5 million, disbursements of $625.3 million, debts of $21.1 million and cash-on-hand of $70.2 million.
The 1,400 candidates running for the House of Representatives reported combined total receipts of $1 billion, disbursements of $971.7 million, debts of $62.4 million and cash-on-hand of $258.8 million in the 24-month period. In addition to the 2016 primary and general elections, these numbers encompass financial activity associated with the 2015 special elections for Illinois’s 18th Congressional District, Mississippi’s 1st Congressional District and New York’s 11th Congressional District, as well as the 2016 special elections for Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District, Kentucky’s 1st Congressional District, Ohio’s 8th Congressional District, and Pennsylvania’s 2nd Congressional District.
Data summary tables for reports submitted to the Commission through December 31, 2016 by 2015 and 2016 congressional candidate committees can be found here.
III. Political party committees
National, state and local political party committees reported combined total receipts of $1.6 billion in federal funds, disbursements of $1.6 billion, debts of $74.6 million, and cash-on-hand of $86.7 million as of December 31, 2016. Of those totals, party committees other than the two major political parties reported receipts of $6.8 million, disbursements of $6.1 million, debts of $75,996, and a combined cash-on-hand of $1.2 million as of December 31, 2016. (See the footnote in the following table for a list of these other party committees.)
The following table summarizes 2015-2016 campaign finance activity of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), Republican National Committee (RNC), National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), as well as each party’s state and local committees and other party committees.
Political party activity from Jan. 1, 2015 through Dec. 31, 2016
(figures in millions)
|Party Committees||Receipts||Disbursements||Debts Owed||Cash on Hand|
|State and Local Democratic Party Committees (federal funds)||$382.3||$366.0||$4.9||$12.6|
|State and Local Republican Party Committees (federal funds)||$200.7||$189.7||$2.2||$8.5|
|Total Other Party**||$6.8||$6.1||$0.1||$1.2|
|Total Party Activity*||$1,629.4||$1,556.1||$74.6||$86.7|
Individuals, for whom contributions to national parties were limited to $33,400 per year during the 2015-16 election cycle, were the largest source of federal funds for party committees’ traditional accounts. Democratic and Republican party committees reported receiving $418.2 million and $355.3 million, respectively, from individuals. PACs and other political committees contributed $76.1 million to Democratic party committees and $81.2 million to Republican party committees as of December 31, 2016.
Democratic and Republican House campaign committees transferred $29.7 million and $33.2 million, respectively, from their campaign accounts to their national congressional party committees. Committees representing Democratic Senate candidates transferred $19 million to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Committees representing Republican Senate candidates transferred $3.6 million to the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Provisions of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 (H.R. 83), signed into law in December 2014, enable national party committees to establish accounts to defray certain expenses incurred with respect to Presidential nominating conventions, national party headquarters buildings, and election recounts and contests and other legal proceedings.
The resulting new accounts of national party committees reported receiving $135.6 million between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2016. Of that total, the new Democratic national party committee accounts received $47.8 million, while the corresponding Republican national party committee accounts received $87.7 million. New accounts established by other national political parties reported receiving $31,508.
Headquarters accounts reported the highest receipt total across all the newly established national party committee accounts: $67.2 million. New convention and recount accounts raised $40.6 million and $27.8 million, respectively, through December 31, 2016.
Data summary tables for reports submitted by political party committees to the Commission through December 31, 2016 can be found here.
IV. Political Action Committees (PACs)
Based on reports filed with the Commission from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2016, 8,666 federal PACs reported total receipts of $4 billion, disbursements of $4 billion, debts of $22.7 million, and combined cash-on-hand of $565.5 million.
The following table summarizes campaign finance activity of PACs based on PAC type in 2015-2016. This table includes both separate segregated funds (SSFs), which have connected organizations such as corporations or labor organizations that establish, administer or raise money on their behalf, and nonconnected committees.
PAC activity from Jan. 1, 2015 through Dec. 31, 2016
(figures in millions)
|Committee Type||No. of PACs||Receipts||Disbursements||Debts Owed||Cash on Hand|
|Separate Segregated Funds|
|Corporations without Stock||104||$15.7||$14.5||$0.4||$4.0|
|Independent Expenditure-Only Political Committees||2,722||$1,807.0||$1,805.9||$8.3||$50.4|
|Committees w/ Non Contribution Accounts||180||$783.3||$769.1||$0.7||$40.3|
|Other Nonconnected PACs||1,981||$234.3||$233.9||$5.5||$42.7|
|Total SSF and Nonconnected PAC Activity**||8,666||$4,046.3||$3,973.3||$22.7||$565.5|
Contributions by PACs to presidential and congressional candidates seeking office in the 2015-2016 election cycle totaled $2.7 million and $441.3 million, respectively, as of December 31, 2016. PAC contributions to Senate and House candidates totaled $89.8 million and $351.5 million, respectively. Independent Expenditure-Only Political Committees are prohibited from making contributions to candidates.
Data summary tables for reports submitted by PACs to the Commission through December 31, 2016 can be found here.
V. Independent expenditures
Independent expenditures reported to the Commission through December 31, 2016 in connection with presidential and congressional elections in the 2015-2016 election cycle totaled $1.6 billion.* Independent Expenditure-Only Political Committees accounted for $1.1 billion of all independent expenditures disclosed to the Commission, Committees with Non-Contribution Accounts reported $46.7 million, and other PACs reported $76.2 million. Independent expenditures made by persons other than political committees totaled $197.2 million, and party committees reported independent expenditures totaling $254.5 million.
Data summary tables for independent expenditure filings submitted to the Commission through December 31, 2016 can be found here.
*A political committee must itemize its payments for independent expenditures once the calendar-year total paid to a vendor or other person exceeds $200 with respect to a particular election. Any other person (individual, partnership or group of individuals) must file a report with the FEC at the end of the first reporting period in which independent expenditures with respect to a given election aggregate more than $250 in a calendar year and in any succeeding period during the same year in which additional independent expenditures of any amount are made.
VI. Electioneering communications
Electioneering communication filings totaling $56.1 million were reported to the Commission in connection with activity in the 2015-2016 election cycle. An electioneering communication is a broadcast, cable or satellite communication that refers to a clearly identified federal candidate and is distributed within 30 days prior to a primary election or within 60 days prior to a general election. These communications do not expressly advocate the election or defeat of a federal candidate.
The data summary table for electioneering communication filings submitted to the Commission through December 31, 2016 can be found here.
VII. Communication costs
A provision of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended (the Act), allows corporations and labor organizations to communicate to a “restricted class” of individuals on any subject, including express advocacy of the election or defeat of any Federal candidate. The costs of such communications must be reported to the Commission when the cost exceeds $2,000 per election. This provision of the Act pre-dates the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which struck down the ban on independent expenditures and electioneering communications financed by the general treasuries of corporations and labor unions.
The Commission received 82 such filings during the reporting period, disclosing spending of $28.7 million in costs for communications to organizations’ restricted class between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2016.
The data summary table for communication cost filings submitted to the Commission through December 31, 2016 can be found here.
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is an independent regulatory agency that administers and enforces federal campaign finance laws. The FEC has jurisdiction over the financing of campaigns for the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, the Presidency and the Vice Presidency. Established in 1975, the FEC is composed of six Commissioners who are nominated by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.###