The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Campaign contribution limits are about to go way up. Here’s what that looks like, in one massive graph.

The Post's Matea Gold has been sussing out the implications of a change to campaign finance law, dropped into the very end of a very long spending bill set to be approved this week on Capitol Hill.

Gold explains:

The measure would increase the amount individuals could donate to national parties tenfold by allowing wealthy contributors to give additional sums to separate party arms for financing presidential conventions, building renovations and recounts and other legal proceedings. Those three committees could accept triple the amount individuals can give now to the national parties.

Currently, donors are allowed to give $32,400 per year to a party committee. That's $32,400 to the Democratic National Committee, for example, plus the same amount to the Senate and House campaign committees. And $32,400 to the party's convention committee.

The new rule keeps the same per-committee limits, but triples the amount that could be given for the convention. Plus, it lets each committee set up funds for buildings and legal fees that also allow triple the contributions.

But why explain with words when we can explain with a very large graph?

Why do parties want so much money for buildings or recounts? Simple. As Republican election law attorney Michael Toner told Gold, "Money is fungible in American politics." The Democratic Senate committee spent $5 million on a building this year — money that could have gone to candidates. Now, they have a separate fund for that. What's more, the lines on something like "defray expenses incurred with respect to the preparation for and the conduct of election recounts and contests and other legal proceedings" — the description offered for the third type of fund — is squishy. Lots of things could count as "other legal proceedings."

In total, Gold estimates that couples (who can each give, once a year), could end up giving $3.1 million a cycle to their favorite political party. If money is speech, political parties are about to get a lot louder.