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political donations

Political Contributions – When Contributions Become a Crime

Protect your candidate, our organization, and yourself during campaign season.

Each election cycle, Americans contribute millions of dollars toward political candidates. In 2012, this number was almost $1.3 billion. But did you know that leveraging work resources to support a candidate could put you in real jeopardy?

Imagine yourself in this scenario. Your brother is organizing a “get out the vote” campaign to support a local Congressional candidate. You like the candidate, so your brother asks for your help. He knows that you have regular access to our organization’s extensive client database that he could use to create a mailing list for his flyers. It would help your brother and your candidate, and better yet – wouldn’t cost you, your brother, or our organization anything. What would you do?

It may seem like an altruistic act, but donating a non-monetary resource, like a mailing list, office supplies, or access to a meeting room, is a violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). Providing access to that database would subject you, your organization, and your candidate to criminal liability ranging from stiff fines to prison time.

Established in 1971, FECA is a federal law that brings increased disclosure and limits to campaign spending for both individuals and corporations. Under its standards, any uncompensated contribution can be considered in violation.

It’s everyone’s responsibility to be aware of the FECA law. It’s unacceptable to use business accounts as a conduit for political donations, but there may be non-monetary contributions you may make unaware that they violate FECA.

Some non-monetary contributions include:

  • Directing office staff to organize, plan, or carry out a fundraising project.
  • Using corporate contact lists to solicit contributions.
  • ​Hosting a campaign activity in a business space not normally available to the public, such as a meeting room.
  • ​Providing catering or food services to campaign staff or fundraising events.
  • ​Allowing access to office resources, such as stamps, envelopes, printers, or phone lines.
  • ​Coercing employees to contribute to a political campaign as individuals, such as promising a bonus in pay or the threat of job loss.

So How Can I Contribute?

You can still contribute to your preferred federal candidate legally and within the spirit of FECA. Just know the limits.

  • ​You can give up to $2,600 to a federal candidate per election (primary, runoff, and general).
  • ​You can give up to $32,400 to a national party committee per calendar year.
  • ​You can give up to $10,000 to state, district, and local party committees per calendar year.
  • ​Spouses can donate individually by writing separate contribution checks.
  • ​If you’ve hit a limit, you cannot give money to someone else to donate.
  • ​Remember, there is never a limit to the amount of volunteer work you give your candidate!

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