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Election finance 101: Donors and limits

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It takes money to run a campaign, and every candidate will be on the hunt for contributions this season – but there are rules to follow for both candidates and donors, and limits to how much donors can give.

For city elections, the city code specifies two types of campaign donors: “individual” and “large political committee.”

There are two significant differences between the two categories, the first being that “individual” is more than what it sounds like – a single person.

According to the city code, it can also be a labor union, company, committee, corporation, firm or partnership, among other things.

A “large political committee” is defined by the city code as a political committee of people that receives contributions from 100 or more people and has been around for more than six months.

So, ABC Widgets – a corporation – can donate to any campaign or candidate as an individual donor and is subject to individual donor limits.

But, Citizens For Bright Yellow Widgets – a political committee that has gathered contributions from its 300-plus supporters – would donate to a candidate or a campaign as a large political committee and is subject to a different donor limit.

For the city of Sacramento, individual donors can contribute up to $1,500 per candidate for council member races and up to $3,050 per candidate for a mayoral race.

There is no limit to the amount an individual can contribute to a political committee.

For large political committees, the limits are $5,050 per candidate for council member races and up to $10,100 per candidate for a mayoral race.

Again, there is no limit to the amount a large political committee can contribute to another political committee.

According to Stephanie Mizuno, assistant city clerk, candidates must keep track of all contributions they receive and report them to the city clerk.

Mizuno said donor records must include date of the contribution, name and address of donor, occupation of donor and amount received, as well as the committee I.D. number if from a political committee.

If any information is missing, the candidate will need to get the information and correct the disclosure to the city clerk. If the candidate does not or cannot provide the required information, Mizuno said, the contribution should be returned to the donor.

Donors are not required to disclose their campaign contributions unless an individual donor donates $10,000 or more. In that case, the individual needs to file a major donor statement with the various tax jurisdictions, Mizuno said.

Candidate spending is another area of campaign finance that is strictly regulated by law.

For city races, mayoral candidates can contribute up to $585,000 to their own campaigns, and council members can contribute up to $88,000 for their races.

More information about campaign contribution limits for Sacramento can be found in the city code HERE.

More information about the laws related to election finance in California and can be found in the Fair Political Practices Commission Campaign Manual 2 for Local Candidates HERE.

Melissa Corker is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.

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