The CMDI Political Glossary
Popular term for an authorized committee; a fundraising committee set up by a candidate to finance a campaign for state or federal office. All campaign committees file regular campaign finance reports, usually once a quarter, with the FEC that detail their donors and expenditures. See also Authorized Committee or Principal Campaign Committee.
Campaign Spending Limit:
A maximum amount that a candidate’s campaign can spend during the election period. In its 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that campaign spending limits constitute a violation of free speech unless voluntarily accepted, or accepted in exchange for public financing or other public resources. Voluntary campaign spending limits exist in eleven states and in primary and general elections for president.
An individual seeking nomination for election, or election, to a federal office becomes a candidate when he or she, or agents working on his or her behalf, raises contributions or makes expenditures that exceed $5,000.
Contributions made by members of Congress whose seats are considered safe to candidates facing difficult elections. A lawmaker may contribute out of his or her campaign account, leadership PAC and personal funds.
A unique identifier assigned to each candidate registered with the FEC. The initial character indicates the office sought. (H)ouse, (S)enate, (P)resident. If a person runs for several offices, they will have separate IDs for each office.
An outsider who moves into an area to seek political power at the expense of the locals. The term originated by Southerners to describe Northerners who moved to the South during Reconstruction from 1865-1877. Carpetbags were popular types of luggage, which were made from pieces of carpet, and identified anyone carrying one as an outsider. It was, and continues to be, a derogatory term to describe political opportunism and exploitation by the outsiders.
A public gathering of potential presidential candidates early in the primary season. The term comes from theater to describe the auditions of a large number of inexperienced performers to try out for a limited number of roles.
A meeting of party members and activists at which they choose which candidate to back for the party nomination, such as Iowa. In procedures that vary by state and party, participants in presidential caucuses meet in their local communities to choose which candidates they want to support. The caucuses allocate delegates based on the level of that support. The results are then tallied state-wide, and the candidate with the most delegates is said to win the state.The term can also refer to informal groups of Members of the House of Representatives or the Senate used to discuss common issues of concern and conduct policy planning for its members. There are also regional, ideological, and ethnic-based caucuses in Congress. The term comes from the Algonquian language and means “to meet together.”
An upper limit on campaign expenditures. Sometimes also refers to the upper limit on what individuals, PACs, and political parties can contribute. See also Campaign Spending Limit.
Latin expression for “other things being equal.” The term is used in economic analysis when the analyst wants to focus on explaining the effect of changes in one (independent) variable on changes in another (dependent) variable without having to worry about the possible offsetting effects of still other independent variables on the dependent variable under examination.
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Code of Federal Regulations. A codification of the current general and permanent regulations of the various federal agencies. The sections of the CFR pertaining to federal elections are available on the FEC’s website or as a free publication from the FEC.
Emotional language or speech used by a politican. The term originated with a famous speech made by President Richard Nixon on September 23, 1952 as he was fighting to stay on the 1952 ticket as vice president. Accused of taking advantage of a reimbursement fund for political expenses, he declared that he would not return one gift: a small, black-and-white dog his children had named Checkers.
Checks and Balances:
The U.S. Constitution divides power among the three branches of government, executive, legislative, and judicial, to prevent any from having too much power. Each branch is said to have the ability to check the power of the others, thereby maintaining a balance in the government.
Used to characterize a supposedly offensive tough, “take-no-prisoners” approach to politics. The phrase originated with the era of the Richard J. Daley machine politics from the 1950s-1970s and describes the non-competitive, patronage network of obligations, benefits, and loyalties that dominated the city’s politics for decades.
Campaign gear such as bumper stickers, lawn signs, and campaign buttons. The term is derived from the bait used to catch fish because in a political campaign these items are frequently used to entice volunteers and voters to get more involved in a campaign or bringing them to events.
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission:
A U.S. Supreme Court case that ruled in a 5-4 decision in January 2010 to allow corporations and unions to use their general treasuries to pay for political advertisements that expressly call for the election or defeat of a candidate or independent expenditures. The decision also allowed nonprofit groups to use corporate or union funds to air electioneering communications within 30 days of a primary election and 60 days of a general election, which had previously been prohibited since the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.
Clearly Identified Candidate:
A candidate is clearly identified when his or her name, nickname, photograph or drawing appears, or when his or her identity is otherwise apparent through an unambiguous reference such as “the President,” “your Congressman,” or “the incumbent,” or through an unambiguous reference to his or her status as a candidate such as “the Democratic presidential nominee” or “the Republican candidate for Senate in the State of Georgia.”
Separate rooms for Democratic and Republican members of the U.S. Senate that are adjacent to the chamber and serve as gathering places for party members to discuss chamber business privately.
A group of similar-minded organizations or individuals who have joined together to lobby for a specific cause. Because of their size, coalitions often wield more influence among elected officials than do individual organizations that lobby alone. Some coalitions do not reveal their membership, making the money spent on campaign contributions and lobbying difficult to determine within a coalition.
The power of a popular candidate to gather support for other candidates running on the same party ticket. Winning candidates are said to have coattails when they drag candidates for lower office along with them to victory. The term originated in the mid-19th century when men’s coats had tails.
Any person providing goods or services to a candidate or political committee whose usual and normal business involves the sale, rental, lease or provision of those goods or services.
A definition that categorizes groups organized to receive and spend money in federal elections. The basic committee types are authorized committees, political party committees, separate segregated funds (SSFs) and non-connected committees.
- Contributions reported by persons other than political committees
- Independent expenditures reported by persons other than political committees
- Communication costs reported by corporations and membership organizations
- Electioneering communications
Money raised by major-party presidential nominees that is used for legal and accounting expenses incurred in the process of satisfying the reporting and other requirements of federal campaign finance laws. Used by candidates as a way of getting around the prohibition on fundraising during the presidential general election.
A person, group, or organization that forwards others’ contributions to candidates, a legal activity under federal law. Such contributions always count against the federal contribution limit for the donors, and sometimes against the limit for the conduit as well (in cases in which the conduit exercises “direction and control”). Also known as Intermediary.
An organization that uses its treasury funds to establish, administer, or solicit contributions to a separate segregated fund.
Money, or anything else of value, such as mailing lists, telephones, billboard space, given to a candidate’s campaign committee, political party, or PAC by an individual or organization to influence a support or opposition of a political candidate or legislation.
The rules governing how much an individual or PAC can contribute to a federal candidate or party committee. Limits apply to contributions of hard money, which is given directly to candidate’s campaign. Soft money, which is given to political parties and groups not associated with specific candidates and cannot be used to expressly advocate for a candidate’s election, was not regulated until 2002. Contributions to state and local candidates and party committees to be used exclusively to elect state and local candidates are subject to state contribution limits.
The surge of support a presidential candidates may enjoy after the televised national convention of their party. The size and impact of a convention bounce is sometimes seen as an early indicator of party unity.
A political campaign run by political consultants who use virtually identical strategies in different jurisdictions. The typical sign of such campaigns are websites or direct mail advertisements that use identical layouts and stock photographs. The increased number of cookie-cutter campaigns in recent years is due, in large part, to the rise of political consulting on the local level.
Made in cooperation, consultation or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate, a candidate’s authorized committee, or their agents, or a political party committee or its agents.
- The communication must be paid for by a person other than a federal candidate, authorized committee, or a political party committee, or any agents of the aforementioned entities with whom the communication is coordinated.
- One or more of the five content standards set forth in 11 CFR 109.21(c) must be satisfied; an
- One or more of the five conduct standards set forth in 11 CFR 109.21(d) must be satisfied.
A payment for a communication satisfying all three prongs is an in-kind contribution to the candidate or political party committee with which it was coordinated.
In federal elections, money spent by political parties on behalf of their presidential and congressional candidates in the general election. Such expenditures are limited by law, and are not direct payments to candidates but payments by the parties to cover candidates’ campaign costs.
Coordinated Party Expenditure:
Also known as a 441a(d) expenditure. Certain expenditures under specific limits that are made by a national or state party committee in connection with the general election campaign of its candidates.
Any separately incorporated entity (other than a political committee that has incorporated for liability purposes only). The term corporation covers both for-profit and nonprofit corporations and includes nonstock corporations, incorporated membership organizations, incorporated cooperatives, incorporated trade associations, professional corporations and, under certain circumstances, limited liability companies.
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