19 June 2016

How political megadonors can give almost $500,000 with a single check

by Libby Watson

On May 17, Donald Trump announced an arrangement with the Republican National Committee (RNC) that will allow individuals to donate almost $500,000 each to a joint fundraising committee between Trump, the RNC and 11 state Republican parties. In 2012, Mitt Romney’s joint fundraising committee could only raise $135,000 from each individual. What happened in the last four years to make these numbers so much higher?

A couple of developments got us here. First, in 2014, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC that eliminated aggregate limits on donations. Before McCutcheon, an individual could donate a maximum of $123,000 to political candidates, PACs and parties in a single cycle. After McCutcheon, although contribution limits to each committee still apply, donors can give as much as they want overall. While they are still limited in how much they can give to each candidate and committee — a maximum of $2,700 to a campaign per election, $5,000 per year to a PAC, $33,400 per year to a national party committee, and so on — they can now give the maximum amounts to as many candidates and PACs as they want (if they have the cash and the inclination). That allows wealthy donors to give huge amounts overall.


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