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Campaign Finance

Money drives many things in our country, and politics is no exception. Campaign finance laws limit the amount of money contributed to federal election candidates and prohibit contributions from certain sources. An FEC guide explains the nuances of existing campaign finance law.

"Hard money" describes money contributed directly to a particular campaign. Hard money contributions are limited to $1,000 per candidate per federal (presidential or congressional) election by the Federal Election Campaign Act. State regulations vary. "Soft money" describes funds donated to a political party or organization for the promotion of issues, not candidates. Because it is difficult to account for the use of these funds, a lot of debate centers on soft money contributions.

Contributions from political action committees are another source of controversy. PACs range from business associations to single-issue groups. By law, PACs can only donate $5,000 per candidate per election.

The resources below will outline the issues and help you "follow the money" to see who is contributing what to each candidate's coffer.

Campaign Finance Resources:

  • Campaign Finance Glossary
    CNN explains basic terminology used in the debate.

  • FEC
    Offers financial information on candidates and parties, including data on the 2008 Presidential candidates.

  • CQ MoneyLine
    Find out who gave what to which candidates. View PAC money, soft money and lobby money on one page.

  • OpenSecrets.org
    This site allows you to see who is donating money to which candidates and PACS. Type your zip code and find out which candidates your neighbors are supporting.

  • Follow the Money
    From the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

  • NewsMeat Hall of Fame
    Find out where America's billionaires sent their money.



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