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Study Notes

Hard Money

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

Hard Money is defined as money that is contributed directly to a candidate’s campaign. Hard money is tightly regulated - there are strict federal limits on the amount of money that can be donated, and on who can donate.

Limits are set down in legislation and enforced by the Federal Election Commission. These figures are now adjusted for inflation every two years.

The limits restrict donations to candidates from individuals and political action committees. Unlike soft money, companies, organisations and unions are forbidden from donating any funds to candidate campaigns.

Limits on contributions


  • $2700 per election* to a federal candidate
  • $5000 per year to a Political Action Committee
  • $10,000 per year to a state or local party
  • $33,400 per year to a National Party

* Legislation classes primary elections and the general election as separate elections. In addition to this, the primary elections in each state are classed as separate elections. Therefore individuals can donate to each candidate in both the primaries and the general election.

Political Action Committees

  • $5000 from individuals
  • $5000 per election to a Candidate Committee
  • $5000 to another PAC
  • $5000 to State Party Committees
  • $15000 to a National Party

PACs, however, are still subject to spending restrictions.

These donation limits are enforced quite rigorously - and must be reported to the FEC.

However, despite strong federal limits, there are frequent attempts to find loop holes in legislation. These loopholes have been successfully exploited in the form of Super PACs.

Read our study note soft money

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