A political committee established, financed, maintained or controlled by a corporation, union, trade association, collective bargaining organization, federation of labor unions or any membership organization shares a contribution limit with that entity. For example, the Association of Widget Manufacturers shares a contribution limit with the Widget Manufacturers PAC and the two of them jointly may not give a legislative candidate more than $1,000 in the primary and $1,000 in the general. Additionally, they may not jointly give a state, county or legislative district political party committee more than $5,500 per year or a legislative caucus campaign committee more than $1,000 per year. (The contribution limits of RCW 42.17A.405 do NOT apply to contributions given to an “exempt funds” account of a state, county or legislative district political party committee. The political party, however, may not use these accounts for the direct support of individual candidates).
In addition, there are other structural relationships that trigger automatic affiliation and, potentially, shared contribution limits. As mentioned above, a PAC always shares a contribution limit with the entity which established it or finances, maintains or controls it. However, if this entity is part of a structure having national, state and local bodies, the PAC may also share a limit with these other organizational units and any PACs they may have formed. Specifically, two or more entities share a limit if one of the entities is:
Under certain circumstances, however, the subsidiaries of a corporation, the local units of a union, or the local units of any membership organization (or any of the other entities mentioned above) may have separate contribution limits. In the event neither the national nor state level of an organization (or the PAC of the national or state entities) contributes to a candidate or gives any indication that it supports or opposes a candidate, and the local units independently decide to contribute to a candidate for state office, each local unit has a separate contribution limit.
In other words, if the national and state entity, or their PACs, do not participate in a candidate’s campaign, then each of the local units may each have their own limits with respect to the candidate.
For example, John Johnson is running for the legislature in the 50th legislative district. The Widget Manufacturers Association is structured such that it has a national body (which has a PAC), a state body (which also has a PAC) and three local bodies (which also have separate PACs).
So long as neither the national or state body or either of their PACs give a contribution to Johnson, or make an independent expenditure supporting Johnson, or otherwise communicate to the locals that they should support Johnson, then each of the local units (in conjunction with its PAC) may give Johnson $1,000 for the primary election and $1,000 for the general election.
Other entities—besides those that are part of the same organization—may become affiliated and share a contribution limit. For example, three people decide to establish a PAC, collect money from like-minded folks and give to candidates. If these same people set up another PAC—anticipating that they will then be able to give twice as much to a candidate than if they had only one PAC—they will be disappointed to learn that, in fact, the two PACs share one limit because they are operated by the same individuals.
Two or more entities are treated as one and share a limit if one of the entities is established, financed, maintained or controlled by the other, as evidenced by any one of the following factors:
A contribution by a political committee with funds that have all been contributed by one person who exercises exclusive control over the distribution of the funds of the political committee is a contribution by the controlling person. RCW 42.17A.455(1)