(The Center Square) — The new year triggered higher campaign contribution limits for North Carolina candidates and political committees, with the cap now set at $6,400.
The new limit is an $800 increase from the $5,600 cap in place over the last two years, and was implemented automatically through a North Carolina law that tasks the State Board of Elections with recalculating the contribution limit every odd-numbered year based on the federal Consumer Price Index’s all items — U.S. City Average.
"The 2023 change is based on the 14.3477% increase in the index from July 2020 to July 2022," according to a Board of Elections notice. "The increase in the contribution limit is four times greater than the increase between 2019 and 2021, when the limit increased by $200 per election."
The change was published in the North Carolina Register on January 3.
The limit applies to contributions for North Carolina candidates and political committees, though there are some exceptions.
Any candidate or their spouse can contribute unlimited amounts to the candidate’s committee, while "any national, state, district or county executive committee of any political party recognized" under state law is also exempt.
The $6,400 limit also applies separately to primary and general elections, allowing political committees to receive contributions up to the limit for both.
Andy Jackson, director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity at the John Locke Foundation, describes North Carolina’s system for setting campaign contribution limits as "basically kind of a compromise between the idea of having limits on contributions set low and not having limits."
"I tend to not favor contribution limits, because you’re essentially limiting free speech," he said.
By tying the limit to the consumer price index, lawmakers can avoid uncomfortable votes to increase contributions, Jackson said, though he believes "if anything, it’s not keeping up (with rising costs) because our media markets are getting more expensive."
The increased limit will be particularly helpful for urban candidates, as metro media markets have experienced the biggest demand and fastest rising advertisement costs, he said.
The $800 increase for 2023 and 2024 is "probably not keeping pace with the expense of elections," Jackson said.