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Federal Contribution Limits Drift Toward Texas

Take a look at how Texas' campaign finance system compares to the federal campaign finance system, and see how political contribution laws differ from state to state.

The federal campaign finance system moved a step closer to the Texas model Wednesday as the U.S. Supreme Court struck down some limits on political donations to federal candidates.

In a 5-4 decision, the justices struck down federal limits on how much an individual may make in total political contributions, also known as aggregate limits. Under the rules at issue in McCutcheon v. FEC, the Federal Election Commission has a $123,200 biennial limit on individual contributions in every two-year election cycle, with $48,600 allowed to go to candidates and $74,600 for political parties and political action committees.

Under the federal decision, the FEC’s rules will now be more in line with those of the Texas Ethics Commission, which has no aggregate limits on political donations.

Political donors in Texas fall under the federal rules only when giving to congressional candidates or candidates for president. Those donors are able to follow the more lenient state guidelines for donations involving Texas state government races, such as the governor, the Legislature and state courts.

The table below shows how the Texas campaign finance system compares to the federal campaign finance system. 

Individual Contribution Limits
 TexasFederal
Per candidateUnlimited*$2,600
To any political committeeUnlimited$5,000
Special limitsNone$123,200 to candidates, parties and political groups every two years

None (As of Wednesday's ruling)

* Individual contributions for judicial races have limits ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, depending on the court.

Texas is not alone in choosing not to restrict the total amount of political contributions a donor can make in an election cycle. Only 10 states have aggregate limits of the kind the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in McCutcheon v. FEC.

Has Aggregate Political Contribution Laws

The following states have aggregate political contribution laws.


Arizona

Aggregate contributions from individuals to all candidates and candidate committees cannot exceed $5,610 in a calendar year.

Connecticut

Aggregate contributions from individuals to all candidates and candidate committees cannot exceed $30,000 per election cycle.

Maine

Aggregate contributions from individuals to all candidates cannot exceed $25,000 in a calendar year.

Maryland

Aggregate contributions from individuals to all campaign finance entities cannot exceed $10,000 per election cycle. Effective in 2015, this amount will rise to $24,000.

Massachusetts

Aggregate contributions from individuals to all candidates and candidate committees cannot exceed $12,500 in a calendar year.

Minnesota

Aggregate contribution limits vary depending on the office up for grabs. For gubernatorial and lieutenant governor races, the limit is $700,000. For attorney general races, the limit is $120,000. For secretary of state and state auditor races, the limit is $80,000. In state Senate races, the limit is $6,000. In state House races, the limit is $12,000. All amounts are per two-year cycles.

New York

Aggregate political contributions by an individual cannot exceed $150,000 in a calendar year.

Rhode Island

Aggregate contributions from individuals to all candidates and candidate committees cannot exceed $10,000 in a calendar year.

Wisconsin

Aggregate contributions from individuals to all candidates and candidate committees cannot exceed $10,000 in a calendar year.

Wyoming

Aggregate political contributions by an individual cannot exceed $25,000 in a two-year period consisting of the general election year and the previous year. Effective in 2015, this amount will rise to $50,000.


Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2014/04/02/federal-individual-contribution-limits-drift-towar/.

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