Sander Lurie

FEC increases contribution limits for 2019-2020

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) updated the federal contribution limits for the 2019-2020 election. The new per election limits were effective January 1, 2019. Below is a chart that explains the new limits on each donor.

The chart above illustrates the new increased contribution limits to the respective donors. Individuals can now contribute $2,800 per election to a candidate, an increase of $100 from the 2018 cycle. This means that individuals may now give up to $5,600 per candidate per cycle (combined to include both the primary and general election limits). Due to changes in inflation, these limits are increased every odd-numbered year to balance out differences.

The contribution limit to national party committees can now contribute $35,500 per year, an increase of $1,600 from last year. The annual max contributions to the national party committee accounts have been increased to $106,500, an increase of $4,800.

Note that traditional PAC contributions are not indexed for inflation. This means that PAC contributions remain the same from 2018.

Every committee assignment for the 116th Congress

House Democratic and Republican leadership have nearly finalized the grueling task of doling out committee assignments, capping weeks of acute jockeying by freshman lawmakers hoping to earn influential postings.

An opaque process tightly controlled by party leaders, the committee sweepstakes represents one of the earliest and most significant influences on a new legislator’s career trajectory, as panel membership often drives member legislative priorities and opens important avenues of fundraising opportunities.

House rules generally limit members to serving on no more than two standing committees and four subcommittees, with the four-most prized including Ways and Means, which writes tax laws; Energy and Commerce, which claims the broadest non-tax-oriented jurisdiction of any committee and has principal responsibility for telecommunications, consumer protection, food and drug safety, public health, the supply and delivery of energy, and interstate and foreign commerce; Financial Services (also known as the Banking Committee), which oversees the totality of the financial services sector; and Appropriations, which is responsible for passing spending blueprints for the federal government.

While the final composition of every committee is still being negotiated, Dentons’ bipartisan public policy team has assembled here the most up-to-date index of assignments available.

We’ll update this space as new assignments are announced.

An August midterm cheatsheet: 2018 by the numbers

Election prognosticators argue that the “holy trinity” of POTUS approval, Right Track/Wrong Track and Generic Ballot preference foretell the outcome in November.

Looking back over the last 9 midterms, we see that presidents with a sub-50 percent approval rating lose an average of 40 seats in the House and 6 seats in the Senate. We also note that the summer Right Track/Wrong Track number seems to align better than the generic ballot as an early indicator of seat loss.

By the numbers:

  • Democrats in 56 House districts surpassed Republican incumbents in second-quarter fundraising, according to the latest Federal Election Commission filings. Sixteen of those House Republicans finished the quarter with less cash in their campaign accounts than Democratic opponents, while no Democratic members lag their Republican challengers in cash.
  • There are 23 House seats held by a Republican incumbent that Hillary Clinton won in 2016: AZ-O2, CA-10, CA-21, CA-25, CA-39, CA-45, CA-48, CA-49, CO-06, FL-26, FL-27, IL-06, KS-03, MN-03, NJ-07, NY-24, PA-06, PA-07, TX-07, TX-32, VA-10, and WA-08.
  • There are 12 House seats held by a Democratic incumbent that Donald Trump won in 2016: AZ-01, IA-02, IL-17, MN-01, MN-07, MN-08, NH-01, NJ-05, NV-03, NY-18, PA-17, and WI-03.
  • So far in 2018, Democratic House primaries featuring at least one woman, one man and no incumbent, woman have woman in 70 of 106 cases (66 percent). One the GOP side, just 11 of 29 won (38 percent). Democrats have nominated women in 85 of 179 (47 percent) of 2018 House races, excluding incumbents. On the GOP side, just 24 of 139 (17 percent).
  • The House GOP has 42 open or vacant seats, the most since the Gatsby Era: 19 Solid R, 4 Likely R, 7 Lean R, 4 Toss up, 5 Lean D, 3 Likely D.

Download the full report (PDF) here.

A midterms deep dive: a Dentons elections report

We are less than 150 days from November’s general elections. Roughly half of the state primary election contests, as well as a few special elections, are behind us, and the contours of the campaign battlefield for the November general election are taking shape.

So it’s an excellent opportunity for an update on the battle for control of the US House and Senate, and a look at the key races for governor and attorney general, as well as seats in state legislatures around the country.

  • The GOP currently enjoys a two-seat majority in the US Senate and a 23-seat majority in the US House of Representatives. In the Senate, Democrats are defending 26 seats to the GOP’s nine. As mandated by the Constitution, all 435 House seats are on the ballot in November.
  • In the states, the GOP currently holds 33 governorships, the Democrats have 16, and there is one Independent. As a result of retirements, the GOP will be defending 26 governors’ seats while the Democrats will be defending only 10. Elections for state legislators will be held in 46 states. In addition, 35 of 50 attorney general seats will be contested this election cycle. In 43 states, the attorney general is directly elected and 30 of states states will hold elections for the position this November. Moreover, 4 of the 5 states where the attorney general is appointed by the governor will hold elections for governor. Main, the sole state where the attorney general is appointed by the state legislature, is also holding legislative elections this November. Of the 99 total state legislative chambers in the US, the GOP currently controls 67 of them.

A few truisms about midterm elections:

  • While President Donald Trump won’t be on the ballot this November, his presence will be felt and will surely influence many House, Senate and even state races, for better and for worse.
  • Additionally, the party out of power–that is, the party not in the White House–always has the edge on voter intensity and enthusiasm. Midterms are often very unkind to the party in the White House.
  • Finally, history has shown that the generic ballot question, which simply asks voters which party they would prefer to control Congress, is fairly reliable metric of how many House seats turn over to the other party in the general election. (The most recent Real Clear Politics polling average has the generic ballot ballot at D+7.6.)

The answers to the following questions will help inform the path forward:

  • Just how large a shadow will President Trump cast on the federal races, or will those races turn primarily on local issues not involving the president?
  • Will a relatively strong national economy cause voters to “vote their pocketbooks” and overlook both their concerns about the president’s tweets and their unhappiness with congressional gridlock in Washington?
  • How much of a role will the #metoo movement, and women generally, play in the outcome of the elections?
  • With Democratic turnout this fall expected to be close to historic levels for a midterm election, what, if anything, can the GOP do to fire up its base and get them to voting booths this fall?

What else do we know at the movement? We know that there are more women candidates running for office, from both parties, than at any time in our history. We know that Democrats are leading the fundraising race at the candidate level but are still struggling at the national committee level. We know that retirements at the federal level, especially for the GOP, are reaching historic proportions and that those open seats are particularly vulnerable to national political sentiment.

Above all else, we know that events–nationally, locally, and on the world stage–that are presently unforeseeable have the potential to upstage all that we think we know today.

For a deep dive into the map, polling, historical data, and anecdotal evidence for virtually every election this fall, download Dentons’ latest election report here.

As Congress returns: Debt limit, appropriations

Of all the five-alarm fires brewing already in September, the debt limit might be the most pressing. Administration officials have indicated a desire for a “clean” (read: no policy changes to entitlement programs) bill. For a clean bill to pass the House, Democratic members will have to support that package as conservative members of the GOP caucus will not vote to raise the limit without the inclusion of entitlement reform in the package.

FY18 Appropriations

With the fiscal year ending September 30, 2017, the House has passed four appropriations bills and still has eight that have yet to make it across the floor. The Senate, for its part, has yet to pass any of its bills. Complicating the situation is President Trump’s desire to see included in the package funding for a wall along our southern border.

As talk of a government shutdown heats up, the expectation is that the House will wrap the remaining eight bills into a single package and send it to the Senate. Reports also indicate that the Senate has no intention of acting on it, or on the earlier package sent to them by the House. The expectation is for a continuing resolution to be debated that effectively allows the House and Senate more time to finish—or in some cases start—their work.

As Congress returns: Harvey supplemental funding, flood insurance reauth

The results of Hurricane Harvey’s historic landfall will certainly eclipse the combined economic and insurance losses associated with Hurricane Katrina, making it the costliest natural disaster in US history. Reports indicate that, in the short term, the House leadership is considering a down payment to ensure immediate needs are met. These types of “supplementals” often draw conservative ire because they are usually not offset by spending cuts elsewhere, as was the case with Hurricane Sandy, which battered the East Coast in 2012.

US House of Representatives Financial Services Committee Chair Jeb Hensarling (R-TX5) has drafted a package of bills that reauthorizes the flood insurance program for five years. The package downsizes the program’s foot print, raises what policyholders pay and makes it easier for private companies to compete. GOP members from flood-prone districts have criticized this approach. To date the program is $24.6 billion in debt.

This seems to indicate a short-term extension past the September 30, 2017, expiration date.

House E&C Cmte. green lights autonomous vehicles

A powerful US House panel on Thursday unanimously approved a first-of-its-kind bill to set federal rules for autonomous vehicles, making it easier for technologists and auto manufacturers to test experimental cars on public roads while preempting conflicting state regulatory frameworks.

By a vote of 54-0, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce advanced to the full chamber a sweeping proposal allowing car makers to skirt existing federal motor vehicle safety standards, deploying up to 25,000 exempt vehicles in the first year and as many as 100,000 annually over the space of three years.

Named the Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research in Vehicle Evolution (SAFE DRIVE) Act, the bill, which marks the first significant federal attempt to regulate autonomous vehicles, was heavily amended Wednesday night by a bipartisan quartet of four lawmakers after Democrats worried in an earlier subcommittee markup that the legislation’s safety carve outs were too broad.

Under the proposal, these new vehicles can qualify for exemptions from existing federal safety standards that require conventional controls (steering wheel and acceleration and braking pedals), but manufacturers would be required to demonstrate self-driving cars are “at least as safe” as existing vehicles.

An earlier version of the bill would have allowed for testing of 100,000 exempt vehicles within the first year.

The new framework would not require pre-market approval of experimental vehicles, but would instead spur the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to develop new safety thresholds within 18 months.

The full House of Representatives will consider the bill when it reconvenes in September. At the same time, the Senate is expected to introduce a suite of parallel proposals.