Ask the Experts - Indexing of Contribution Limits - State and Federal Communications

February 2, 2015  •  

Ask the Experts – Indexing of Contribution Limits

Nola Werren
Q. With the start of the New Year, are there any changes I should be aware of in political contribution limits?

 A. Aside from changes as a result of new legislation, the most common adjustment of contribution limits is indexing for inflation.  Typically, adjustments are made biennially for inflation according to the Consumer Price Index.  The Consumer Price Index is calculated by the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This concept was addressed by the United States Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo (1976).  The court allowed federal contribution limits to be adjusted upwards at the beginning of each calendar year by the average percentage rise in the Consumer Price Index for the 12 preceding months.

The principal behind this is quite simple:  it is based on the recognition that the cost of campaigning steadily increases each year based on the increase to cost of living.  Campaign fliers, mailers, yard signs, and media buys do not cost the same in 2013 as they do in 2015.

This year, California adjusted its contribution limits for the 2015-2016 biennium.  In doing so, corporate contributions limits for general assembly candidates increased from $4,100 per election to $4,200.  Washington adjusts its limits in even-numbered years, so the 2014 corporate contribution limit of $950 per election for state legislative candidates will remain the same for 2015.   Illinois adjusts its limits in odd-numbered years, so the 2014 corporate contribution limit of $10,500 per election cycle for legislative candidates will increase to $10,800.

Finally, the indexing of contribution limits usually results from amendments to a state’s administrative code as opposed to its statute.  In order to ensure compliance, a contributor should review both of these sources.

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