As both presidential and down-ticket candidates gear up for post-election recounts and related litigation in several states, they and their political parties will be raising new funds to finance these efforts. As with campaign contributions made before the election, there are a variety of rules that apply to contributions to support post-election disputes.
The Federal Election Campaign Act provides that national party committees, including the Democratic National Committee, the Republican National Committee, and their House and Senate campaign committees, may each accept up to $106,500 per year from an individual “to defray expenses incurred with respect to the preparation for and the conduct of election recounts and contests and other legal proceedings.” Multicandidate Political Action Committees (PACs) may give up to $45,000 per year to each of these legal accounts. The contribution limits for the legal accounts are separate from the limits applicable to the national party committees’ general accounts.
A state party committee may accept up to $10,000 per year for its account for federal recounts and election contests, separate from the $10,000 per-year limit for its general federal account. For “recount activities involving Federal races,” state parties may use only these recount funds and their other federal funds.
Additionally, federal candidates may accept up to $2,800 from an individual and $5,000 from a multicandidate PAC per election cycle for recounts and election contests. This limit is in addition to, and separate from, the contribution limits for the primary and general elections. All donations to recount funds must be disclosed by candidates and political party committees on their Federal Election Commission reports.
Note that some candidates may form joint fundraising committees (JFCs) with political party committees in order to raise funds for recount and election dispute efforts, allowing for a single contribution to be made in an amount reflecting the combined contribution limits of the JFC’s various constituent committees. Those making such contributions to JFCs should be aware that if they have already made maximum contributions to the recount funds of one or more of the JFC’s constituent committees, they cannot contribute to those committees again through the JFC.
None of these federally registered political committees may accept corporate funds or funds from foreign nationals. Some campaigns or political party committees may also adopt their own self-imposed restrictions on contributions from other categories of donors.
To the extent outside groups that are not candidate committees, party committees, or JFCs solicit funds with a promise that they will be spent on matters related to recounts and election disputes, clients should seek specific legal advice to ensure that such contributions will not result in any impermissible in-kind contribution to a campaign or party committee or otherwise run afoul of the campaign finance rules.