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Contributions story

March 21, 2013 - 7:00pm

Campaign Contribution Limits Ready to Increase


The Florida legislature is poised to change campaign contribution limits.


Two billsone in the House, and one in the Senateare seeking to up campaign contributions significantly from the current $500 limit. The current cap on campaign donations is nearly 20 years old.


On Thursday, the Senate Community Affairs Committee unanimously approved SB 1382 by a vote of 13-0. Introduced last month by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Palm Harbor, the bill seeks to up campaign contribution limits from $500 to $3,000 per statewide election. Legislative campaign donations would remain at the $500 limit.


In addition to increasing campaign contribution limits, the measure would also get rid of political fundraising committees called committees of continuous existence (CCEs). A decertification process would eliminate CCEs by September 30, 2013. However, the bill would still allow for other committees to take on the the majority of the functions of the eliminated CCEs.


Coupled with SB 1382 is a similar bill in the House. Taking the floor today, the measure would allow statewide candidates to accept campaign donations of up to $5,000. Legislators would be allowed to accept a maximum of $3,000 for donations under the bills guidelines.


HB 569 would also allow incumbent candidates to keep $50,000 in excess campaign cash for future re-election campaigns.


Democrats sought to keep campaign contribution limits at $500, but Republicans shot down any potential alterations to the bill.


If you ask for my comfort level, I wouldnt have any limits, said Rep. Robert Schenck, R-Spring Hill, who likened contributions to free speech.


House Speaker and author of the bill Will Weatherford says that the bill will allow for greater transparency of campaign donations. He said that with a higher limit on contributions, more money will go to the campaigns themselves, and thus make campaigns more responsible.


These reforms in contribution donations limits would update outdated numbers that have been around since the 90s. And when Floridas limits are compared with other large states contribution caps, Floridas maximums pale in comparison.


So, how exactly do Floridas campaign contribution limits match up to other big states?


California


Californias individual campaign contributions cap out at $26,000 for gubernatorial candidates, $6,500 for statewide candidates, and $3,900 for legislative candidates. These limits also apply for regular PACs, corporate contributions and union contributions.


Small contributor committee PACs have a slightly higher contribution limit. These PACs are allowed $26,000 for gubernatorial candidates, $13,000 for statewide candidates, and $7,800 for legislative candidates.

Texas


Texas has fairly minimal contribution caps. Texas doesnt have a contribution limit for individuals, state parties or PACs, but it does prohibit union and corporate donations.

New York

New Yorks limits are the highest of any state that requires campaign finance limitation.


New York places a $150,000 aggregate limit for individual donations each year. As of 2012, individual contributions for gubernatorial campaigns are determined by a formula that considered the number of enrolled voters in a candidates party (excluding inactive voters). This number is then multiplied by $.005; however, this number cannot be lower than $6,500 or higher than $19,700.


Donations to legislative candidates in primary elections cap out at $6,500 for Senate candidates, and $4,100 for House candidates. Contributions are limited to $10,300 for Senate candidates and $4,100 for House candidates in general legislative elections.

PAC and union contributions to candidates are identical to the individual limits, while corporations are limited to $5,000 in total contributions per year to New York state candidates and committees.


State party contributions are unlimited.

Illinois


Individual contributions in Illinois are restricted to $5,000 per election cycle. State parties contributions are unlimited when contributing to a candidate who is not seeking nomination in a primary election. Contributions max out at $200,000 for statewide candidates, $125,000 for senate candidates, and $75,000 for house candidates, respectively.


PACs are allowed to contribute a maximum of $50,000 per election cycle, while corporate donations and union donations are limited to $10,000 per election cycle.

Pennsylvania


Pennsylvanias campaign contribution limits mirror Texass. There are no caps on individual, state party, or PAC donations, but corporate and union donations are not allowed.


Ohio


In Ohio, individual campaign contributions limits change frequently because they are adjusted for inflation each odd-numbered year. These limits will remain in effect until 2015.


This year, the individual contribution limit rose 5.3%, from $11,544 to $12,155. This limit applies to statewide candidates, House and Senate candidates, PAC contributions, and county party contributions. Limits differ, however, for other types of campaigns, and individual donations are larger for legislative campaign donations and state party donations. These limits max out at $18,233 and $36,466, respectively.


PAC campaign contributions limits mirror individual contributions in every category except for county parties. PACs are prohibited from contributing to county parties. State parties have a $685,471 contribution limit for statewide candidates, $136,749 for senate candidates, and $68,070 for house candidates. In-kind donations (donations of supplies, machines, or anything of value) are unlimited.


Corporate and union donations are prohibited.

Both bills are still in the early stages, but these first steps in the Senate and the House signal that an increase in campaign contribution limits may be on their way soon.

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