IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.
Former President Donald Trump speaks at the NRA's convention in Indianapolis on April 14, 2023.
Former President Donald Trump at the NRA's convention in Indianapolis on April 14.Michael Conroy / AP

Presidential candidates use joint fundraising committees. So what are they?

Both former President Donald Trump and Nikki Haley noted their joint fundraising committees’ hauls to tout their fundraising strengths. 


As campaign fundraising totals became public this week, former President Donald Trump and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley’s campaigns pointed to other entities to tout their fundraising strength: joint fundraising committees. 

Haley’s team inflated her overall fundraising total by double-counting funds that were transferred between her joint fundraising committee and her other fundraising arms. It's a common practice among politicians, and highlights how the use of JFCs has exploded for both parties as they court wealthy donors. 

These committees act as one-stop shops for donors willing to write large checks. Individual campaigns, PACs and party committees can join a JFC, and share donations based on a predetermined formula. So a donor can write one large check that the JFC then divides up between the entities, rather than writing several smaller checks to individual groups.

Donors giving to a JFC must still abide by individual contribution limits, which include $3,300 to a candidate per election, $5,000 per year to a PAC, $10,000 per year to a state or local party committee and $41,300 for a national party committee per year. 

The use of these committees exploded after the Supreme Court struck down the aggregate limit for individual donors in 2014, allowing donors to give maximum donations to as many groups and candidates as they want.

So JFCs became an efficient way to capture those large donations, raising some concerns among those focused on campaign finance overhauls. 

“If you are going to a fundraising event where you’re able to write a very large check, that is a way for you to attempt to garner access and influence that many ordinary Americans don’t have,” said Michael Beckel, research director at Issue One. “And with larger checks often comes increased possibilities and opportunities for access and influence in the political system.”

Michael Toner, a GOP campaign finance lawyer and former Federal Election Commission chairman, countered that this dynamic already exists with the opportunity to donate large sums to super PACs. 

“The only difference is money is being divvied up by a JFC,” Toner said. 

"The biggest misperception of these JFCs is somehow they’re allowing people to evade the contribution limits,” Toner later added. “What they’re really doing is enabling people to contribute more within the contribution limits.” 

Still, ensuring limits aren’t breached can make for some “tricky accounting,” said Shanna Ports, senior legal counsel for the Campaign Legal Center.

“There can be some excessive contributions that come through if people aren’t keeping the books carefully,” Ports said, adding that the FEC also tracks donations and has been known to enforce violations. 

Ports did note there have been cases from both parties where funds raised through a JFC were allegedly funneled from a state party back to the national party, potentially violating contribution limits, but the FEC split over whether those were violations. 

The FEC has weighed in on how JFCs can spend money, allowing funds to be used on ads that ask for donations. But Beckel noted that some groups can blur the lines between a “persuasion” message and a fundraising solicitation. 

“Year after year, election after election, groups sometimes get more aggressive with their interpretation of the rules and want to push that line,” Beckel said. “But again, in principle, joint fundraising committees are designed to be conduits.”

Trump’s joint fundraising committee spent $84.1 million in the 2022 election cycle — more than half of what it raised — on "operating expenditures," including $31.2 million on text ads and $14 million on digital ads, per FEC filings. That sum exceeded the $63.9 million that Trump's JFC transferred to affiliated committees.

As more money continues to be raised and spent through JFCs, one thing is clear — campaigns won’t stop using them anytime soon. 

“I don’t think we’re going to see that slow down, either the right or the left, in the foreseeable future,” said Toner.