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  • Press Release

Statistical Summary of 24-Month Campaign Activity of the 2017-2018 Cycle

March 15, 2019

Congressional candidates running in 2017 and 2018 collected $2.8 billion and disbursed $2.7 billion, political parties received $1.6 billion and spent $1.5 billion, and political action committees (PACs) raised $4.7 billion and spent $4.6 billion during the 2017-2018 cycle, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission that cover financial activity from January 1, 2017 through December 31, 2018. Presidential candidates seeking office in 2020 raised $75.3 million and spent $63.1 million during this 24-month period. Disbursements for independent expenditures reported in this period totaled $1.3 billion. Electioneering Communications added up to $15.3 million and communication costs reported to the Commission totaled $10.8 million.

Activity from Jan. 1, 2017 through December 31, 2018

(figures in millions)

Filers Receipts Disbursements
2020 Presidential Candidates $75.3 $63.1
2018 Congressional Candidates $2,774.0 $2,718.3
Party Committees $1,555.2 $1,501.8
PACs $4,674.2 $4,554.1
Communications Filings Total
Independent Expenditures $1,301.0
Electioneering Communications $15.3
Communication Costs $10.8

This summary of campaign activity in the 2017-2018 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, 2018, 51 individuals had filed campaign finance reports disclosing financial activity in connection with the 2020 presidential election. These candidates reported raising $75.3 million and spending $63.1 million from January 1, 2017 through December 31, 2018. Their combined cash-on-hand was $19.9 million, while their combined debt was $7.2 million as of December 31, 2018.

Data summary tables for reports submitted to the Commission through December 31, 2018 by 2020 presidential candidate committees can be found here.

II. Congressional Candidates

United States House and Senate candidates running in the 2018 cycle reported raising a total of $2.8 billion and spending $2.7 billion between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2018. Candidates for the two chambers reported combined total debts of $84.1 million and combined total cash-on-hand of $377.2 million as of December 31, 2018.

The following table summarizes campaign finance activity of House and Senate candidates through December 31 of election years since the 2007-2008 election cycle.

24-Month Financial Activity of Congressional Candidates*

(figures in millions)

Year No. of Cand. Receipts Disbursements Debts Owed Cash on Hand
2018 2,491 $2,774.0 $2,718.3 $84.1 $377.2
2016 1,617 $1,644.3 $1,597.0 $83.4 $328.9
2014 1,678 $1,669.4 $1,615.0 $95.2 $243.3
2012 1,949 $1,878.8 $1,847.2 $107.2 $211.1
2010 2,198 $1,860.4 $1,833.6 $114.9 $233.2
2008 1,544 $1,417.0 $1,383.9 $87.7 $222.6
*Includes activity from January 1 of the pre-election year through December 31 of the election year. Contribution limits are indexed for inflation every cycle. The totals in the 2018 row may differ slightly from the sum of the numbers in the two subsequent paragraphs as the numbers have been rounded. The number of candidates reflects the number of candidate committees that filed reports with financial activity in a given election cycle

The 257 candidates running for Senate in 2017 and 2018 reported total receipts of $1.0 billion and disbursements of $1.0 billion, debts of $10.5 million and cash-on-hand of $91.4 million. These totals include financial activity for the special elections for Alabama’s, Minnesota’s and Mississippi’s Senate seats.

The 2,234 candidates running for the House of Representatives reported combined total receipts of $1.7 billion, disbursements of $1.7 billion, debts of $73.5 million and cash-on-hand of $285.9 million in the 24-month period. In addition to the 2018 primary and general elections, these numbers encompass financial activity associated with the 2017 special elections for California’s 34th Congressional District, Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, Kansas’s 4th Congressional District, Montana’s At-Large Congressional District, South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District and Utah’s 3rd Congressional District, as well as the 2018 special elections for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, Michigan’s 13th Congressional District, New York’s 25th Congressional District, Ohio’s 12th Congressional District, Pennsylvania’s 7th, 15th and 18th Congressional Districts, and Texas’s 27th Congressional District.

Data summary tables for reports submitted to the Commission through December 31, 2018 by 2017 and 2018 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 $1.5 billion, debts of $77.6 million, and cash-on-hand of $95.4 million as of December 31, 2018. Of those totals, party committees other than the two major political parties reported receipts of $5.7 million, disbursements of $6.4 million, debts of $197,684, and a combined cash-on-hand of $1 million as of December 31, 2018. (See the footnote in the following table for a list of these other party committees.)

The following table summarizes 2017-2018 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, 2017 through December 31, 2018

(figures in millions)

Party Committees Receipts Disbursements Debts Owed Cash on Hand
DNC $175.8 $177.7 $5.6 $8.6
DSCC $148.7 $145.8 $21.1 $6.2
DCCC $296.4 $297.5 $18.9 $5.6
State and Local Democratic Party Committees (federal funds) $265.7 $232.8 $2.7 $15.4
Total* $783.2 $750.4 $48.4 $35.7
Party Committees Receipts Disbursements Debts Owed Cash on Hand
RNC $324.8 $326.7 $0.0 $23.5
NRSC $151.6 $151.2 $17.0 $7.5
NRCC $205.8 $200.6 $10.6 $16.6
State and Local Republican Party Committees (federal funds) $166.2 $148.7 $1.4 $11.1
Total* $766.2 $745.0 $29.0 $58.7
Total Other Party** $5.7 $6.4 $0.2 $1.0
Total Party Activity* $1,555.2 $1,501.8 $77.6 $95.4
*The totals in this line may not equal the sum of the numbers in the corresponding columns as the receipts and disbursements have been adjusted to account for transfers between party committees and the numbers have been rounded. **Other party committees include the Libertarian National Committee, Libertarian National Congressional Committee, Green Party of the United States, Green Senatorial Campaign Committee, Constitution Party National Committee, and the Reform Party of the United States of America.

Individuals, for whom contributions to national parties were limited to $33,900 per year during the 2017-18 election cycle, were the largest source of federal funds for party committees’ traditional accounts. Democratic and Republican party committees reported receiving $504 million and $440.3 million, respectively, from individuals. PACs and other political committees contributed $96.7 million to Democratic party committees and $77.1 million to Republican party committees as of December 31, 2018.

Democratic and Republican House campaign committees transferred $33.2 million and $31.8 million, respectively, from their campaign accounts to their national congressional party committees. Committees representing Democratic Senate candidates transferred $3.7 million to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Committees representing Republican Senate candidates transferred $2.3 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 $159.8 million between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2018. Of that total, the new Democratic national party committee accounts received $53.9 million, while the corresponding Republican national party committee accounts received $105.8 million. New accounts established by other national political parties received $65,575.

Headquarters accounts reported the highest receipt total across all the newly established national party committee accounts: $110.9 million. New recount and convention accounts raised $37.2 million and $11.8 million, respectively, through December 31, 2018.

Data summary tables for reports submitted by political party committees to the Commission through December 31, 2018 can be found here.

IV. Political Action Committees (PACs)

Based on reports filed with the Commission from January 1, 2017 through December 31, 2018, 8,663 federal PACs reported total receipts of $4.7 billion, disbursements of $4.6 billion, debts of $33.4 million, and combined cash-on-hand of $689 million.

The following table summarizes campaign finance activity based on PAC type in 2017-2018. 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.

(monetary figures in millions)

Committee Type No. of PACs Receipts Disbursements Debts Owed Cash on Hand
Separate Segregated Funds
Corporate 1,732 $417.2 $404.8 $0.2 $178.6
Labor 279 $365.8 $342.2 $4.3 $136.3
Trade 746 $174.3 $164.1 $1.7 $78.9
Membership 215 $100.4 $97.6 $0.0 $38.1
Cooperative 46 $9.1 $8.4 $0.0 $6.2
Corporations without Stock 103 $14.3 $14.4 $0.0 $3.7
Committee Type No. of PACs Receipts Disbursements Debts Owed Cash on Hand
Nonconnected PACs*
Independent Expenditure-Only Political Committees 2,217 $1,566.4 $1,530.7 $18.4 $87.3
Committees w/ Non-Contribution Accounts 343 $1,476.4 $1,458.2 $1.9 $58.3
Leadership PACs 664 $187.6 $177.0 $0.5 $47.6
Other Nonconnected PACs 2,318 $362.7 $356.6 $6.5 $54.0
Total SSF and Nonconnected PAC Activity** 8,663 $4,674.2 $4,554.1 $33.4 $689.0
*Nonconnected committees include Independent Expenditure-Only Political Committees, Committees with Non-Contribution Accounts and Leadership PACs. Independent Expenditure-Only Political Committees are committees that may receive unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, and labor organizations for the purpose of financing independent expenditures and other independent political activity. Committees with Non-Contribution Accounts solicit and accept unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, labor organizations, and other political committees to a segregated bank account for the same purposes as Independent Expenditure-Only Political Committees, while maintaining a separate bank account -- subject to all of the statutory amount limitations and source prohibitions -- that is permitted to make contributions to federal candidates. The data above includes receipts and disbursements from both bank accounts of Committees with Non-Contribution Accounts. Leadership PACs are political committees that are directly or indirectly established, financed, maintained or controlled by a candidate or an individual holding federal office, but are neither authorized committees of the candidate or officeholder nor affiliated with an authorized committee of a candidate or officeholder. Like other multicandidate PACs, a leadership PAC may contribute up to $5,000 per election to a federal candidate committee. **The totals in this line may not equal the sum of the numbers in the corresponding columns as these numbers have been rounded. Instead, the bottom-line totals correspond to PAC Table 1.

Contributions by PACs to presidential and congressional candidates seeking office in the 2017-2018 election cycle totaled $163,000 and $465.4 million, respectively, as of December 31, 2018. PAC contributions to Senate and House candidates totaled $81.5 million and $383.9 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, 2018 can be found here.

V. Independent Expenditures

Independent expenditures reported to the Commission through December 31, 2018 totaled $1.3 billion.* Independent Expenditure-Only Political Committees accounted for $820.5 million of all independent expenditures disclosed to the Commission, Committees with Non-Contribution Accounts reported $72.9 million, and other PACs reported $59.6 million. Independent expenditures made by persons other than political committees totaled $115.5 million, and party committees reported independent expenditures totaling $232.7 million.

Data summary tables for independent expenditure filings submitted to the Commission through December 31, 2018 can be found here.

VI. Electioneering Communications

Electioneering communication filings totaling $15.3 million were reported to the Commission in connection with activity in 2017 and 2018. An electioneering communication is a broadcast, cable or satellite communication that refers to a clearly identified federal candidate and is publicly distributed within 30 days prior to a primary election or within 60 days prior to a general election for the office sought by the candidate, and is targeted to the relevant electorate. These communications are not expenditures or independent expenditures.

The data summary table for electioneering communication filings submitted to the Commission through December 31, 2018 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 costs exceed $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 organizations.

The Commission received 58 such filings during the reporting period, disclosing spending of $10.8 million in costs for communications to organizations’ restricted class between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2018.

The data summary table for communication cost filings submitted to the Commission through December 31, 2018 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.

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