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Campaign Fundraising in Washington, D.C.

Congressional election law in Washington, D.C., is administered by the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which seeks to ensure that money is spent ethically and fairly across campaigns. Of course, it doesn’t always work out like that, but certain practices do help to level the playing field.

The two major political parties each have a national committee whose goals are to gain or maintain power in both the legislative and executive branches of government. These committees raise money and distribute it to favored candidates in elections across the country during each cycle.

The FEC limits the amount of money each campaign can receive from the Democratic or Republican national committee. (For 2011–2012, the limit is $5,000 per election except for Senate races; a special, inflation-indexed limit of $43,100 is set for each Senate campaign.)

An individual donor is restricted to giving a maximum of $2,500 per congressional or presidential candidate. However, that same person can donate more than 12 times as much to a political party’s national committee.

Therefore, if someone is looking to influence an upcoming election, an indirect donation (to the committee instead of the campaign) can have much greater influence. National campaign committees, however, make the final decisions on where those dollars are spent.

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