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banner Tuesday, 22 February, 2000, 17:26 GMT
Federal matching funds

Money supplied to campaign funds from public resources and administered by the Federal Election Commission.

Federal matching funds match donations made by individual contributors dollar-for-dollar up to a maximum of $250 per donation.

Candidates are not obliged to take matching funds, but if they opt to do so they must restrict their spending to a maximum of approximately $40m during the presidential primary period.

Funding is paid out in three stages:

  • Matching funds for the primaries
  • A block grant for the conventions
  • A further block grant for the general election
Those who decline matching funds are free from any spending limits (although they are still bound by contribution limits including the $1000 limit from each individual).

This stems from a 1975 Supreme Court ruling, Buckley v. Valeo, which stated that donating money was a form of expression protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

To qualify for funds, candidates need to show they are viable by raising at least $100,000 in individual donations, including at least $5,000 in each of 20 states.

Candidates who fail to receive at least 10% of the popular vote in two successive primary elections lose their eligibility for continued payments, unless and until they receive at least 20% of the vote in a later primary.

The two major parties - Democrat and Republican - are automatically entitled to a public grant to pay for the cost of Presidential conventions.

Minor parties - those who presidential candidates received between 5% and 25% of the vote in the preceding election - are also entitled to a smaller subsidy in proportion to the vote they received.

New parties are not eligible.

In the general election proper the two major parties receive a block grant, while minor parties receive an amount proportionate to the vote they received in previous elections.

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22 Feb 00 | G-I
Hard money
22 Feb 00 | Q-S
Soft money
20 Feb 00 | A-B
Buckley v. Valeo
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