Look up contribution amounts that may be given to candidates, political party committees, and caucus campaign committees.

Limits Explained

Each lobbyist employer has a separate contribution limit unless the employer: 

  1. controls a political committee as described in RCW 42.17A.455;
  2. is affiliated with another entity for limit purposes under RCW 42.17A.455 and WAC 390-16-309;
  3. exerts “direction or control” over another person’s contribution as set out in RCW 42.17A.460;
  4. received “direction or control” from another person with respect to a contribution; or
  5. is prohibited from contributing to state office candidates under RCW 42.17A.460

Each lobbying firm is entitled to a separate limit provided it 1) does business in Washington, 2) is not affiliated with another entity, and 3) neither exerts nor receives “direction or control” with respect to a contribution subject to limits. 

In addition, each lobbyist has his or her own personal contribution limit for each state office candidate, so long as the lobbyist does not exercise direction or control over someone else’s contributions.  With the exception of the last three weeks before the general election, an individual lobbyist has no limit on contributions given to caucus and party committees. 

Intermediary:  An individual who transmits a contribution on behalf of anyone – except his or her employer, immediate family member, and/or association to which he or belongs – becomes an intermediary and must disclose to the recipient his or her full name, street address, occupation, name of employer and, if self-employed, place of business and the same information for the contributor.  (For example, if a lobbyist delivers a contribution from a PAC that is not the lobbyist’s employer – even though the PAC may be affiliated with the employer – the lobbyist is an intermediary and must supply the recipient with the information noted above.) 

Direction or Control of Another’s Contribution:  If an intermediary or conduit for a contribution originating from another source exercised any “direction or control” over the choice of the recipient candidate or state official, the contribution is considered to be by both the original contributor and the conduit or intermediary.  The Commission has determined that a lobbyist has exercised “direction or control” over an employer’s contribution if the lobbyist:

  1. officially decides who is to receive a contribution from the employer or the employer’s political committee; or
  2. has the ability to execute or authorize payment of a contribution by the employer or the employer’s PAC.

WAC 390-20-148.  A lobbyist who merely recommends who the employer should contribute to is not exercising “direction or control” over the contribution. 

Affiliated Entities:  Some entities are “affiliated” with others for purposes of sharing a contribution limit.  For instance, the following entities share a limit:  parent corporations and their subsidiaries; corporate branches and divisions; and international, national, state, and local affiliates of the same union or other membership organization.  See RCW 42.17A.455 and WAC 390-16-309

Bundling:  Only individuals may be intermediaries for contributions to candidates and political committees.  All lobbyists may transmit contributions from their employers.  However, a lobbyist employer that is a business, union, association, PAC or other entity is prohibited from collecting contributions from two or more sources and transmitting those contributions to the intended recipient.

Post-Election Deadlines for Making Candidate Contributions

Primary Election:  Contributions given to a candidate subject to limits with respect to the primary election may not be made after the primary, unless the candidate lost the election and has debt to retire.  These candidates can continue to accept primary election contributions for 30 days after the election or until the debt is retired, whichever comes first. 

General Election:  General election contributions must be made on or before December 31 of the election year.  Washington State has a “freeze period” which starts 30 days before a regular session, which typically falls in the middle of December.  During the freeze, state office holders, including legislators, are prohibited from soliciting or accepting campaign contributions.  At the start of each December, the Commission will post on its website information about the session freeze.  A newly elected legislator or statewide official who is not already holding a state office is not subject to the freeze until sworn into office.  The newly elected official is allowed to continue accepting contributions once the freeze starts until the end of the cycle or until sworn in, whichever happens first.

Prohibited Contributions

The following entities may NOT contribute to candidates for state office:

  1. corporations and business entities not doing business in Washington state;
  2. labor unions with fewer than ten members who reside in Washington state; and
  3. political committees that, during the 180 days prior to making a contribution, have not received contributions of $10 or more from at least 10 persons registered to vote in Washington state.

Furthermore, a political committee must receive at least $10 each from at least 10 Washington State registered voters before contributing to another political committee.

Session Freeze (Time Period When Contributions May Not Be Made)

During a regular legislative session and the 30 days before it starts and during any special session, any legislator or state executive office holder (or person employed by or acting on behalf of one or more of these officials) is prohibited from soliciting or accepting contributions:

  • for any candidate for state or local office;
  • to a public office fund;
  • to retire a campaign debt; or
  • for a political committee, including a caucus political committee or party, if the contributions are used for the benefit of incumbent state officials or known candidates (WAC 390-17-400).

Further, since caucus political committees act on behalf of legislators, caucus committee personnel also are prohibited from soliciting or accepting contributions for the purposes mentioned above and further explained in WAC 390-17-400.

Other Contribution Restrictions

  • Written Instrument.  Monetary contributions exceeding $95 made by individuals, associations, unions, and businesses must be by written instrument.  Any monetary contribution given by a PAC must be by written instrument.
  • No reimbursement or salary increase.  No one may be reimbursed directly or indirectly by anyone else for a contribution to a candidate, political committee or political party.  (Lobbyists may not be reimbursed for contributions they make; if lobbyist employers want to make contributions, they must do so directly or provide a check for the lobbyist to deliver.)  Further, no employer may give an officer or employee a salary increase or bonus with the intention that all or part of it be spent to support or oppose a candidate, political party, or other committee.
  • General election timing provision.  During the last three weeks before the general election, no one may contribute more than $5,000 to a candidate who is not otherwise subject to contribution limits or to a political committee.  This timing provision does not apply to contributions made to ballot measure committees.