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Plastic politicking: Donating to campaigns by credit card

Emily Crone

Are you bonkers for Barack? Are you rooting like heck for Hillary? Are you counting on McCain? Do you “(Heart) Huckabee”? It’s quick and easy to support your favorite presidential candidate with your credit card.

This year’s presidential primaries are growing more heated and exciting by the day. Never before has an African American or a woman had a true shot at running the country. McCain seemed like a dead man a few months ago, but he’s skyrocketed to Republican frontrunner status. Huckabee is hanging in there despite all the odds against him.

Running a successful political campaign takes exorbitant amounts of money. Buying a television commercial can cost anywhere from hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars. Then there’s the cost of endlessly traveling across the country to campaign, booking arenas and paying the staffers. Many campaigns receive money from political action committees, but some candidates, such as Barack Obama, have decided to accept money only from American citizens.

While all of the presidential primary campaigns give you the option of donating money with your credit card online, you also have the option of purchasing merchandise. Most candidates have an online store on their Web site where you can buy T-shirts, mugs, yard signs, bumper stickers and more. These merchandise purchases also count as a contribution, and in doing so, you get something in return.

Before you support your favorite candidate with a contribution, there are a few laws you should be familiar with. Each individual may contribute a maximum of $2,300 for each election (meaning you can donate up to $2,300 for the primary election and up to $2,300 for the general election). Some candidates are currently accepting donations for $4,600, so your money will go toward both elections. Couples can contribute $4,600 per election. You must use a personal card. Sorry, no contributions allowed from a corporate credit card.

When you fill out your donation information, be prepared to provide your employer’s name and your occupation. If your contribution exceeds $200 in an election cycle, the campaigns are required by federal law to submit your name, address and work information to the government. While they won’t tell your boss, if your boss is snoopy enough, he or she COULD see whose campaign you’re contributing to. So could I. So could any nosy neighbor, enterprising reporter or jaundiced pol from the competing candidate’s dirty tricks team. If you kick in over that $200 threshold, it goes into a government database that’s open to the great unwashed.

Most campaigns give you several options for payment amounts in addition to a fill-in-the-blank amount. If you want to donate more than you can afford in one month, some of the campaigns offer a recurring payment option rather than one lump sum.

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  • Hey, are donations tax deductible?

  • Jesse: No, unfortunately these donations are not tax deductible. All of the candidates say “Your contribution is not tax-deductible for federal income tax purposes” on their contribution pages.