California Increases Campaign Contribution Limits, Applies Limits to Local Elections

The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) has published contribution limits for 2021-2022.  The new “per election” limits are effective for the 2021-2022 election cycle, and the calendar year limits are effective January 1, 2021.  Note in particular that this year, for the first time, the state has imposed limits on contributions in city and county elections if the locality does not otherwise have its own contribution limits.

The amount an individual, business entity, or committee/PAC can contribute to a city, county or state candidate was increased to $4,900 per election, up from $4,700.  Because the primary and general count as separate elections, individuals may generally give $9,800 per candidate per cycle.  The limit on contributions from an individual, business entity, or committee/PAC to a candidate for governor also increased from $31,000 to $32,400 per year.  The contribution limit for PACs that contribute to state candidates increased from $7,800 to $8,100 per calendar year; some committees also have a separate, restricted account that may accept contributions in unlimited amounts for purposes other than contributing to candidates.

The following chart shows more details on the limits for individuals in 2021 and 2022:

An individual, business entity, or committee/PAC may contribute to…

Governor $32,400 per election
Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Treasurer, Controller, Supt. of Public Instruction, Insurance Commissioner, and Board of Equalization $8,100 per election
Senate and Assembly $4,900 per election
City and County Candidates if no locally enacted limit* $4,900 per election
CalPERS/CalSTRS $4,900 per election
Committee (PAC), other than a Political Party, that Contributes to State Candidates $8,100 per calendar year
Political Party Account for State Candidates $40,500 per calendar year
Small Contributor Committee $200 per calendar year
Committee Account NOT for State Candidates (Ballot Measure, PAC, Political Party) No Limit per calendar year

* This state contribution limit applies by default to city and county candidates when the city or county has not enacted laws addressing contribution limits on such candidates.

Note that the amount and permissibility of contributions to California state and local candidates may be affected by factors other than the limits above, including contributions by the contributor’s affiliated individuals and entities; the contributor’s lobbying activity; and the contributor’s state contracting activity.  California also has a variety of disclosure requirements for contributors and lobbyists that should be reviewed and considered before making a contribution.

Gift Limits

The FPPC has also published a gift limit increase.  For 2021-2022, state and local officials and employees are prohibited from receiving a gift or gifts totaling more than $520 in a calendar year from certain sources, up from $500.  The lobbyist gift limit is not subject to inflationary increases and remains at $10.  Covered gifts vary by official and other considerations.  Consult with counsel before providing anything of value to a government official or making political contributions.

LexBlog