Contribution Trends in State and Federal Elections

The amount of money being poured into political campaigns is flourishing. This new report takes a look at the past 20 years of data to develop a forecast for the next decade’s contribution trends at the state and federal levels among candidates, parties and political action committees.

Contribution Trends in State and Federal Elections

July 2010


FOREWORD

Sagac Public Affairs is evaluating contribution trends at the state and federal levels to determine giving amounts and trends among candidates, parties and political action committees (PACs).

The purpose of this analysis, prepared from among several sources of data including the National Institute of Money in State Politics, U.S. Census Bureau, Federal Election Commission, Citizens for Responsive Politics and media outlets, is to collect and publish the underlying data as part of the dialogue on campaign spending.  The analysis addresses subjective factors such as redistricting, revised state campaign finance laws and relative financial competitiveness.

The following parameters were the basis of our data collection:

This report is intended to be an informative historical review of past two decade’s activities, as well as to project the growth of state and federal dollars in elections.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. State Contribution Trends
A. Contribution Trends
B. Campaign Finance Laws

2. Federal Contribution Trends
A. Contribution Trends
B. Campaign Finance Laws
C. Apportionment

3. Conclusions
A. General analysis

Appendix A:  State Data Tables

Appendix B:  Federal Data Tables

SECTION I:  STATE CONTRIBUTION TRENDS

A.  Contribution Trends

The most complete data available for each state compares the contributions made during the 1990 to 2008 election cycles.  While state data from 2010 elections is available in some cases the amount of information available for this year is not enough to be statistically significant for the purposes of this analysis.  State data before 2000 is only reported based on availability. A mixture of “hard dollars” and “soft dollars” are included in this analysis due to many states permitting both types of funds for state political activities.  Data from the 2010 elections is in the process of being compiled by most State Divisions of Elections.

B.  Campaign Finance Laws

SECTION II:  FEDERAL CONTRIBUTION TRENDS

A.  Contribution Trends

The most complete data available for federal campaigns is available from the Federal Election Commission (FEC).  The data below represents “hard dollar” contributions from 1990 through 2010.

B.  Campaign Finance Laws

C.  Apportionment


SECTION III:  CONCLUSIONS

A.  General Analysis

The amount of money being poured into state and federal political campaigns is flourishing.  Contributions from PACs and individuals have increased at a per cycle rate of 17 percent and 9 percent respectively from 2000 – 2008.  State campaign contributions have grown at three times the rate (21 percent per cycle) during the last 10 years.

Based on these trends, state and federal campaigns could need almost twice the amount of contributions by the 2020 elections. In addition, the average contribution to a state candidate could grow by an additional $1,000 by 2020.

Term Limit legislation has had little overall affect on state contribution trends, except during the first year when the laws forced officeholder retirements and many legislators seek to run for higher office.  Once established, the routine pattern of ascension to higher office has no greater effect on the costs of campaigning than do other factors.

Apportionment and the subsequent redistricting that will occur by 2012 will significantly increase the number of competitive races in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate.

State campaign finance laws have had various effects on campaign contributions and spending.  Lower limits have precipitated a 76 percent drop in dollar amount of contributions given in those states. In states where lower limits have replaced higher ones, the volume of contributions have increased.


[2] Appendix A: State Contributions 2000 – 2008
[3] Appendix A: Average Contribution Amount 1996 – 2010
[4] Appendix A: Average Contribution Amount 1996 – 2010
[5] Appendix A: Average Contribution Amount 1996 – 2010
[6] Appendix A: State Campaign Finance Laws 2000 – 2010
[7] Appendix A: State Campaign Finance Laws 2000 – 2010
[8] Appendix A: State Campaign Finance Laws 2000 – 2010
[9] Appendix A: State Campaign Finance Laws 2000 – 2010
[10] Federal Elections Commission
[11] Appendix B:  Summary of Candidate Activity 1988 – 2008
[12] Appendix B: Summary of PAC Activity in House & Senate Races 1986 – 2009
[13] Appendix B: Summary of PAC Activity in House & Senate Races 1986 – 2009
[14] Federal Election Commission
[15] Appendix B: Apportionment Population and Number of Representatives by State, U.S. Census Bureau Estimates
[16] Appendix B:  Roll Call, Politics, “Looking Homeward”, Van Dongen, February 26, 2001

Click here to download Appendix A and Appendix B.

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