"The legislature recognizes that the effectiveness of representative government is dependent upon a knowledgeable electorate and the confidence of the electorate in their elected public officials. The legislature, therefore, enacts this Chapter to provide public disclosure of the financing of election campaigns and to regulate certain campaign practices."
Those are the introductory sentences of, commonly referred to as the Campaign Finance Disclosure Act. Lawmakers passed the act in 1980 and it took effect Jan. 1, 1981. It has been adjusted a few times since then, but the CFDA remains Louisiana's primary law governing what a person or group may contribute to a candidate for political office in this state, and how such contributions are reported to the public.
States pass their own campaign finance laws, and there are also laws regulating campaign finance in federal elections. What is their purpose?
"It is believed by some that money has the potential to corrupt a candidate, to drive him or her to serve their own interests or the interests of their campaign donors rather than the public good, " reads an extract from . "For instance, there is a belief that an unusually large financial contribution could influence the voting behavior of an elected official. Campaign finance laws are intended to reduce the potential for corruption, or even the appearance of corruption."
Louisiana is one of 39 states that set specific limits on how much an individual, a political party, a political action committee (or "PAC"; explained below), a corporation or a union may contribute to a particular candidate. The 11 remaining states place no limits or only minimal limits on contributions - Mississippi, for instance, only limits how much corporations may contribute to $1, 000 per candidate per campaign; the state does not limit how much individuals or PAC's may give.
The CFDA says "contributions, in-kind contributions [for food services, for example], loans, endorsements or guarantees on loans and transfers of funds are all counted towards the contribution limits." A candidate's personal funds, though, do not count toward the limits; they may contribute as much as they like to their own campaign efforts.
Louisiana's limits on campaign contributions generally track the median for limits among the 39 states, according to the NCSL:
Individuals, relatives of candidates, legal entities (including most corporations) and small PAC's may contribute up to , 000 to candidates for a "major office" - statewide positions, as well as several judicial, education and other offices in the state's largest metropolitan areas. They're limited to contributing , 500 to candidates for a "district office" (including seats in the state legislature and many official positions in mid-sized metro areas) and , 000 to candidates for any other office.
"Big PAC's" have higher limits. Louisiana law defines a "big PAC" as a political action committee that has more than 250 members who contributed over $50 to the PAC in the preceding calendar year. Those groups may contribute up to $10, 000 to major office candidates, $5, 000 to district office candidates, and $2, 000 to candidates for all other offices.
Candidates themselves face limits, too, on the total contributions they may accept from PAC's for both primary and general elections. This aggregate limit is $80, 000 per campaign for major office candidates, $60, 000 for district office candidates and $20, 000 for candidates for any other office.
The Democratic Party and the Republican Party face no such limits under Louisiana law - they may contribute whatever they wish to their partisan candidates. Knowing that helps explain why these two major American parties remain so critical in state and federal politics.
Limited though they are, those contributions add up to a vast amount of money. The website followthemoney.org, a non-profit non-partisan watchdog, reports that. In 2011, an election year for Gov. Bobby Jindal and many more major and district offices.
The CFDA also requires that most candidates report the campaign contributions they receive. All candidates for major or district office must file these disclosure reports. Candidates for other offices also must do so if their campaign expenditures (what they spend) are greater than $2, 500, or they receive contributions from a single source in excess of $200 (not counting the candidate's own personal funds).