Get Ready for Campaign Season: Basic Fundraising Points You Need to Know

Nomination papers are circulating and the candidates listed on the ballot have yet to be finalized, but that has not precluded the onslaught of fundraising appeals in your mailbox, inbox and even on your voicemail.

With the passage of campaign finance reform legislation (2015 Wisconsin Act 117) during the 2015-2016 legislative session, here are a few things to remember going into the summer and fall.

You are going to be asked for more money.

Contribution limits to candidates have increased, in fact for state candidates they doubled. For the candidates running for governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state treasurer, the attorney general, state superintendent and supreme court justice, they can receive up to $20,000 from individuals and candidate committee contributors. 

A candidate for state senate can take up to $2,000 and a state assembly candidate can take up to $1,000 from individuals and candidate committee contributors.

In addition, the aggregate limits for those contributing were repealed.  In the past, individuals could only donate a total of $10,000 a year to candidates for office.  If a donor decided to give all $10,000 to the governor, they hit their limit and could not give to anyone else.  This limit has been removed and an individual can give to anyone running for election up to the candidate’s limit.

Corporations will be asked to give more money.

Corporations can now give up to $12,000 annually to a segregated fund of a political party or legislative campaign committee.  This was prohibited by law prior to Act 117.  In addition, companies will still be asked to give to independent expenditure groups.

Certain LLCs are now treated as individuals.

Prior to the passage of Act 117, any corporation and LLC was prevented from donating directly to individual candidate committees.  Certain LLCs will be treated as individuals and will follow the limits mentioned above.

You no longer need to ask the question, “How close is candidate Y to PAC-ing out?”.

Candidates and political parties no longer have a limit on how much money they can take in PAC.  However, this does not remove the limit a PAC may give to a specific candidate.  For example, a PAC can give up to $1,000 to an assembly candidate and $2,000 to a senate candidate.  If the PAC donates more than the stated limit, that is a violation of the campaign finance law.

If you host political fundraisers at your home, you don’t need to itemize your event expenses for campaign finance reporting purposes.

In the past, fundraiser expenses, including food and beverage, were considered to be in-kind donations to the campaign. With the passage of Act 117, this provision has been repealed.

For additional information about the overhaul of Wisconsin’s campaign finance law, the Legislative Council put together a memo, “State Campaign Finance Law: Major Provisions of 2015 Wisconsin Act 117.”