Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

For Immediate Release


Derrick Robinson,
David Rosen,

Press Release

Study: One-Fourth of ‘Maxed-Out’ Campaign Contributions Come From the Richest 1% of Zip Codes

Congressional Candidates Received $1.6 Billion in Maxed-out Donations in the Past Three Election Cycles But 60% of Zip Codes Did Not Provide a Single One

Two-thirds of the “maxed-out” campaign contributions that members of Congress spend much of their time pursuing come from Americans living in the wealthiest 10% of zip codes in the United States, according to a Public Citizen study, “The Well of the Congress,” released today.

Fully one-fourth of these contributions come from donors living in the wealthiest 1% of zip codes – and more than half come from the wealthiest 4%. The study found that maxed-out contributions also are highly correlated with the racial composition of neighborhoods. Zip codes with a majority white, non-Hispanic population provided four times more per person in maxed-out contributions than majority Hispanic zip codes, and five times more than majority Black zip codes.

“This study confirms that the very wealthiest Americans play an immensely greater role than regular voters in choosing our elected officials, and that members of Congress have a strong incentive to align their positions with wealthy donors’ interests,” said Taylor Lincoln, research director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division and author of the study. “Anybody disputing the influence of campaign contributions should ask themselves if members of Congress would govern in the same way if they relied on the poorest 10% of zip codes for the bulk of their contributions instead of the wealthiest.”

“Our representatives’ reliance on the wealthiest American to finance their campaigns is inherently corrupting,” said Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of Public Citizen. “The funding provisions in the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act would wean candidates off of their dependence on the 1% while encouraging them to listen more to the wishes of the other 99%. We stand at the precipice of historic change as we look forward towards next week’s debate. We urge all Senators to vote for the democracy we deserve.”

Candidates for Congress received more than $1.6 billion in maxed-out contributions in the past three election cycles. The maximum contribution in 2020 was $2,800. But maxed-out contributions come from a tiny slice of the electorate. Only about 1/33rd of 1 percent of voting age Americans made a maxed-out contribution in the past three election cycles. The entire populations of 60% of U.S. zip codes did not provide a single one.

Eight of the 10 zip codes providing the most in maxed-out contributions – out of nearly 32,000 nationwide – were located within the Manhattan borough of New York City. The zip code of Trump Tower ranked second nationally in total maxed-out contributions.

The prevalence of maxed-out contributions varies starkly between bordering communities. Residents of Manhattan, for example, gave more than 100 times more per person in maxed-out contributions than did residents of bordering boroughs Queens and the Bronx.

The Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, pending in Congress, would furnish qualifying congressional candidates with a six-to-one match on small-dollar contributions in exchange for agreeing not to accept any contributions of more than $1,000.

The full study can be found here.


Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. We defend democracy, resist corporate power and work to ensure that government works for the people – not for big corporations. Founded in 1971, we now have 500,000 members and supporters throughout the country.

Rights Group Urges Civilian Safeguards as Biden Sends Troops Back to Somalia

"A culture of impunity for civilian loss breeds resentment and mistrust among the population and undermines efforts to build a more rights-respecting state," Human Rights Watch's regional director asserted.

Brett Wilkins ·

Australian Progressives Hail 'Greenslide' Amid Big Left Wins and Morrison's Ouster

"People have backed the Greens in record numbers and delivered a massive mandate for action on climate and inequality," said party leader Adam Bandt.

Brett Wilkins ·

Omar Leads Charge Against Baby Formula Monopolies Amid US Shortage

Democrats urge the FTC to probe "any unfair or unsustainable practices, like deceptive marketing, price gouging, and stock buybacks, that may be weakening our nutritional formula supply."

Jessica Corbett ·

'Arbitrary, Racist, and Unfair': Judge Blocks Biden From Ending Title 42

"Only the coyotes profiteering off of people seeking protection have reason to celebrate this ill-reasoned ruling," said one migrant rights advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·

'This Is a War' for Democratic Party's Future, Says Sanders of AIPAC's Super PAC

"They are doing everything they can to destroy the progressive movement in this country," said the senator.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo