December 18, 2014

New Limits Expand Funding Pool For National Party Committees

Holland & Knight Eyes on Washington Blog
Andy Emerson | Christopher DeLacy

Recently passed spending legislation dramatically increased the amount that individual donors may give to the National Party Committee accounts used to fund party conventions, construction and legal challenges. Specifically, H.R. 83, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015, amended Section 315(a) of the Federal Elections Campaign Act of 1971 (52 U.S.C. 30116(a)) to allow individual donors to give up to three times the current annual contribution limit to the National Party committees that pay for administrative and day to day costs, rather than political activity. The National Party Political Committees include the Republican National Committee (RNC), the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the National Republican Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

The spending bill signed by the President increased these limits by adding a new paragraph specifically describing three types of segregated accounts that may be established by the National Party Committees. All six committees may now establish and maintain a fund to support construction, maintenance and operation of national party headquarters buildings and a fund to pay for the costs of election recounts and other party legal expenditures. In addition, the DNC and RNC may establish a fund to support presidential nominating conventions.

These funds already exist in some instances, but were previously limited to the individual contribution limit applicable to the National Party Committee's authorized political committees, which was $32,400 during the 2013-2014 election cycle. Now, an individual donor may give the RNC and/or DNC up to $324,000 per year, and up to $226,800 per year to each of the parties' House and Senate campaign committees. This effectively allows an individual to give over $1.5 million to a single party over a two-year election cycle, not including contributions to individual candidates. The committees are still prohibited from accepting contributions from corporations and labor unions.

This substantial increase comes on the heels of the Supreme Court's decision in McCutcheon v. FEC in April, which struck down the biannual aggregate limit on how an individual could give to candidates, political action committees, and the National Party's campaign committees, as well as the passage of Public Law 113-94 earlier this year, which terminated public funding for political party conventions. It is not entirely clear who added this amendment to this appropriations bill, which had to pass and be signed into law to avoid a government shutdown. However, its inclusion has been viewed as both a way to ensure the National Committees have the funds necessary to support the presidential nominating conventions in 2016, as well as a way to give the party committees more leverage in a system that is increasingly dominated by SuperPACs and non-profits.

Although individuals may now contribute substantially more to these non-political accounts, Committees may not use any of these additional funds to directly support candidates or otherwise engage in political activity. As a result, giving to these new funds will result in additional compliance considerations and contributors should take precautions to ensure that their contributions are properly allocated between the Committees' funds and used in an appropriate manner. 

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