The ABCs of Political Donations: Tax, Tracking, and Limits

Last Updated August 31, 2023

Whether you’re curious about tax deductions, reporting requirements, or donation limits, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we will delve into crucial aspects of political donations, helping you understand the ins and outs of:

  • Political donations lookup
  • Reporting donations to political campaigns
  • Limits and restrictions to political donations.

But before that, if you’re looking for information on how to raise funds or the laws governing campaign financing, check out our articles:

  1. A Quick Guide On How To Raise Money For A Campaign
  2. The Secret To Writing Political Donation Letters (With Samples)
  3. Dark, Hard & Soft Money: Political Campaign Financing in USA.

Are political donations tax deductible?

No, political donations typically aren’t tax-deductible. Unlike charitable contributions, political donations don’t come with any tax benefit. 

When it comes to campaign finance, any contributions to federal election campaigns, including Presidential, Senate, and House of Representatives campaigns, are not tax-deductible.

How to look up political donations?

To look up political donations, you can use online databases provided by organizations like the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in the United States. These databases allow you to search for contributions to candidates, parties, and committees, providing a transparent view of campaign finance. 

Just visit their website, enter relevant search criteria (like candidate names, donation amounts, or dates), and access the donation information you’re looking for.

political-donations-fec-lookup

Now, let’s explore how you can look up political donations. 

Look up political donations

Here are five tools you can use to look up political donations:

  1. Federal Election Commission (FEC)
  2. OpenSecrets
  3. FollowTheMoney.org
  4. Vote Smart
  5. DonorSearch

For more info, here’s Your Guide To Donor Research Through Political Donor Lookup Tools.

political-donations-over-years

Look up political donations by company

You can look up political donations by company using the following tools:

ToolInformation provided
OpenSecrets.orgPolitical contributions made by organizations, including corporations. You can find details about the contributions made by the company’s PAC (Political Action Committee) and its employees.
Accountable.us Corporate Donations TrackerCorporate political donations, including contributions to candidates, political committees, and ballot initiatives.
FollowTheMoney.orgCampaign contributions, including those made by corporations and their employees. It covers state-level contributions as well as federal contributions.
DonorSearchDonor profiles, contribution histories, political affiliations, geographical insights, and giving trends. This platform also gives actionable information for effective fundraising strategies.
FEC.gov (Federal Election Commission)The Federal Election Commission’s website provides information on federal campaign contributions and spending. You can search for donations made by a specific company or individual to federal candidates and committees.
Note: These tools are accessible to everyone.

Do you have to report political donations?

Yes, you need to report political donations when you’re running a campaign. It is a fundamental aspect of campaign finance regulations, and it’s crucial to stay in compliance with these rules.

Where to report:

  • Federal elections: If you’re involved in federal elections, including Presidential, Senate, and House of Representatives campaigns, you typically report to the Federal Election Commission. They provide clear guidelines and forms for reporting, ensuring transparency in campaign finance.
  • State and local elections: For state and local elections, the reporting authority may vary from state to state. Check with your state’s election commission or relevant regulatory body to determine where to report.

How to report:

  • Online filing: In many cases, you can file reports electronically through dedicated platforms provided by the regulatory authority, such as the Federal Election Commission. This method is efficient and helps ensure accuracy.
  • Paper filings: Some regions may still require paper filings, especially for smaller local elections. Use the correct forms and follow submission instructions meticulously.

How frequently to report:

  • Federal elections: The Federal Election Commission has specific reporting schedules. Generally, you’ll need to submit regular reports, including quarterly reports during non-election years and monthly or even more frequent reports during election years. Additional reports are due closer to Election Day.
  • State and local elections: Reporting frequency can vary widely by jurisdiction. Check with your state or local election commission for precise reporting schedules. Some may follow a similar quarterly/monthly format as federal elections.

Are political donations public records?

Yes, political donations are typically public records, which means that the public has access to this information, promoting openness and accountability in campaign finance. The transparency of political donations is crucial for maintaining trust and accountability in the democratic process. 

When you access these sources, you can discover a wealth of information about political donations. This includes details about 

  • Who is contributing to political campaigns, 
  • How much they are donating, 
  • Which candidates or parties they are supporting, and in some cases, 
  • The donor’s occupation or employer. 

This transparency helps citizens stay informed about the sources of funding for political campaigns, promoting openness and accountability in the process. Platforms like those provided by the Federal Election Commission provide invaluable resources for accessing this data.

Is there a limit to political donations?

Absolutely, there are limits to political donations to prevent the undue influence of money in politics. These limits can differ from one jurisdiction to another and play a significant role in campaign finance regulations.

Limits to political donations by an individual:

In the United States, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) sets limits on individual contributions to federal candidates, parties, and PACs. Individuals can donate up to $3,300 per election per candidate, as outlined by the Federal Election Commission.

Limits to political donations accepted by a campaign from a PAC/corporations:

The rules regarding donations from companies, PACs, and corporations can be complex and vary widely by jurisdiction. In the United States, federal campaigns are generally prohibited from accepting direct contributions from corporations. 

Instead, they can establish a separate PAC to collect and distribute funds from corporate entities. These rules aim to prevent corporate interests from dominating the political landscape. 

Multicandidate PACs can donate up to $5,000 and nonmulticandidate PACs can donate up to $3,300 per election per candidate.

Candidate committee (per election)
Individual$3,300*
Campaign Committee$2,000
PAC (multicandidate)$5,000
PAC (not multicandidate)$3,300*
Party committee: state/district/local$5,000
Party committee: national$5,000 
Source: OpenSecrets

Conclusion

In the world of politics, knowledge is power, and in this article, we’ve equipped you with the knowledge you need to master the realm of political donations. From understanding the intricacies of contribution limits to harnessing the potential of tools, you now have the tools to supercharge your campaign’s fundraising efforts, all while staying compliant with the regulations set by the Federal Election Commission. 

Featured image: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay