So-called "soft money" contributions are contributions unlimited in amount made by corporations, labor organizations, or wealthy individuals to political party committees involved in national elections for President and Congress. "Soft money" contributions are often made in amounts of $100,000 to $250,000 or more. They totaled more than $250,000,000 in the 1996 national elections. They are not subject to the restrictions of the Federal Election Campaign Act (PECA), which prohibits all campaign contributions to candidates by corporations and by labor organizations, and limits individuals' contributions to candidates to $1,000 for the general election and $1,000 for the primary election. It also allows PACs to contribute $5,000 per election to candidates. The contributions which are allowed by FECA are so-called "hard money" (or ''hard dollars"). As explained by the FEC, the distinction between "soft money" and "hard" is as follows:
"Generally, the term 'soft money' refers to funds that are prohibited under the Federal Election Campaign Act, 2 U.S.C. 431 et seq. ['FECA'), either because they come from a prohibited source, see 2 U.S.C. 441b, 441c and 441e, or because the amount exceeds the contribution limits in 2 U.S.C. 441a. Conversely, the term 'hard dollars' refers to funds that are permissible under the FECA because they come from permissible sources and do not exceed applicable contribution limits." 62 Federal Register 33040 (June 18, 1997).