Smart Planning for your Political Dollars

If you want a picture with the next president of the United States, get out your checkbook. The sooner you give to a 2016 presidential campaign, the better your chance of premier access to the candidate of your choice.

The price tag for the presidential race could top $5 billion, according to research by The Hill, a weekly political publication, so they are seeking contributions everywhere.

“There is no stone being left unturned looking for money,” says Nick Iarossi, a political consultant based in Tallahassee, Florida, who raises funds mostly for Republican candidates.

If you are considering giving to candidates during the 2016 election cycle, but you have not given before, you may have to network to get the attention of the campaigns. Here is what financial advisers and fundraisers say it might cost you:


Small amounts will do just fine – even $50 or $100 is enough to procure a handshake from some candidates. (Early in the 2008 Obama campaign, $250 could even get you a good picture, says Robin Rorapaugh, a Hollywood, Florida-based fundraiser for mostly Democratic candidates.)

Today the going rate for the kind of access that gets you a snapshot with the candidate is a contribution of $2,700. That’s the maximum amount an individual can give to a presidential candidate directly. Contributions to political action committees and other groups are unlimited. The closer it gets to Election Day, the harder it is to get access at any price, though.

To maximize your impact, and perhaps even get better access to your candidate, call the campaign and ask to talk to the finance director. “Some very energetic person will get on the phone and help that happen,” Rorapaugh says.

Most people get close to candidates at exclusive fundraising events. Attending the most exclusive parties could take upwards of $10,000 to $25,000 per couple, depending on the poshness of the event, says Rorapaugh.

Of course, you can raise your profile quickly by offering to host an event, too. “If you want to wield true influence, it’s not just the checks you write, it’s the checks you get written on top of yours,” Rorapaugh adds.

Keep in mind that many people who attend political fundraisers don’t always do so to meet a particular candidate, but rather to network with the host of the event or other contributors, says Iarossi.

Don’t expect a hefty tax break for your donation, though. The biggest misconception financial advisers hear from clients is that contributions to political campaigns are tax deductible, like they are charities.

Donating thousands of dollars to a political campaign is more like a luxury purchase, in the eyes of financial adviser Gary Plessl, partner with Kevin Houser in a wealth management firm based in Allentown, Pennsylvania.


Many political givers are not in it for the glory but rather to make a difference. Mary and Larry Schneider plan yearly for political giving in both local and national races, but only out of their surplus left over after necessary expenditures.

“We are not flowing in great wealth. We balance that with offering boots on the ground,” says Larry, a 70-year-old retiree who lives near Allentown. “We call it the three Ts – time, talent and treasure.”

Political donations should not come out of retirement funds, though.

“For somebody who has excess and is on a good financial path, $2,700 is not going to put them back. But for others, that will have implications,” says Jordan Niefeld, a financial adviser based in Miami. “I don’t think it’s prudent financial advice to have somebody dip into other buckets that will put them behind the eight-ball when preparing for their own family’s well-being.”