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Follow The Money: Donation Limits

This year is expected to be a record-breaker in political spending across San Diego. In a new series, Ryann Grochowski, a data journalist with our partner Investigative Newsource, is taking through the ins and outs of local campaign finance.

It’s not a free-for-all when candidates raise campaign cash in San Diego. Limits on donations are carefully governed by the San Diego Ethics Commission. Candidates and committees must abide by the rules, or they could face fines.

Q: What limits are placed on donors?


A: San Diego actually has a pretty low ceiling on contributions. Individuals are limited to giving up to $500 to a candidate per election. That means if you donate $500 to Candidate A in the primary, and she wins and moves on to the general election in November, you can then donate another $500 to her campaign. Also, only individuals are can make donations. Corporations or partnership are not allowed to contribute to city candidates.

Q: What about the independent expenditure committees that we’ve heard so much about?

A: That’s a little different. With independent expenditure committees, you’re not actually donating to a candidate. You’re donating to a committee that, by law, must work without coordinating its efforts with a candidate. And there are no limits on donations to independent expenditure committees in the city. We will have a segment on independent expenditure committees another time, since they can be a bit complicated.

Q: What are the rules for donations to committees that are for or against a ballot measure?

A: There are no donation limits there, either. The thought is that money can’t influence a ballot measure like it might influence a prospective officeholder.


And, again, if you’re interested in seeing who’s donated to a local candidate or committee, you can look up their campaign finance filings at

The 2024 primary election is March 5. Find in-depth reporting on each race to help you understand what's on your ballot.