During the 21 days before the general election, no candidate for statewide office, including State Supreme Court, may accept aggregate contributions of more than $50,000 from any contributor eligible to give that much. Similarly, candidates for other offices may not accept contributions totaling more than $5,000 from any eligible contributor during this three-week period. Legislative and local office candidates are restricted to receiving no more than $5,000 from a single contributor during this 3-week period. These limitations do not apply to contributions accepted from the state committee of a bona fide political party. RCW 42.17A.420.
This 21-day restriction pre-dates the passage of Initiative 134, which enacted contribution limits. Today, the restriction applies to local candidates who are not subject to limits. It also applies to all candidates who are receiving contributions from local bona fide party committees, caucus campaign committees, and candidates' contributions of personal funds to their own campaigns.
The statutory language imposing the $5,000/$50,000 contribution limit has been interpreted by PDC to mean:
- A campaign loan received during the 21 days prior to the general is subject to the limit, as are any loan co-signers or guarantors (and by law each guarantor is considered as giving the full amount of the loan);
- A pledge in excess of the amounts allowed by the limit may NOT be made by a contributor or received or redeemed by a candidate during the 21 days prior to the general;
- A candidate or committee that receives a contribution in excess of the allowed amount may retain the maximum permitted by law so long as the excess amount is immediately returned to the contributor;
- The contribution limit applies to all forms of contributions, including monetary, in-kind, loans, pledges, etc., and any combination of them;
- Earmarked contributions given to an intermediary during the 21 days before the general for the benefit of a candidate or other committee may not exceed the applicable limit for the candidate or committee and must be combined with contributions from the same contributor given directly to the candidate or committee; and
- This 21 day pre-general election period begins at 12:01 a.m. on the third Tuesday before the general election held in November and ends at 11:59 p.m. on the Monday before the election.