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Campaign finance laws govern the amounts of money candidates or parties may receive from individuals or organizations and the cumulative amounts that individuals or organizations can donate. These laws also define who is eligible to make political contributions and what sorts of activities constitute in-kind contributions.

There have been three major periods of campaign finance regulation in the past century: the era before the Federal Elections and Campaigns Act (FECA) of 1971 and its subsequent amendments; the era from 1974 to 2002, when FECA regulated campaigns; and the current era, following the enactment of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) of 2002.

Before FECA, campaign finance laws were mainly addressed to particular types of contributors. By 1947, federal employees, corporations, and labor unions were barred from making ...

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