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Dark Horse

An unknown politician who emerges to win a primary election and capture the party’s nomination. The term is derived from an unknown horse winning a race and was first used by Benjamin Disraeli in the novel, The Young Duke.

Dark Money

Funds used for a political campaign that are not properly disclosed before an election.

Date Made

The date the contributor relinquishes control over a contribution. This date determines the election against which a contribution will count. A contribution that is mailed is “made” on the date of the postmark. Contributions made via the internet are “made” on the date the contributor electronically confirms making the transaction. In-kind contributions are “made” on the date the goods or services are provided by the contributor.

Date Received

The date the committee, or committee agent, receives the contribution. This date is used for FEC reporting. Contributions charged to credit cards are received on the date the committee receives the contributor’s signed authorization to charge the contribution.

De Facto Segregation

Segregation that exists due to economic and residential patterns, not because of law.


The loosening of party ties as more voters see themselves as independents.


Debts include unpaid bills. FEC reports show the amount of reportable debt a committee owes to other entities at the end of the filing period.

Debt Retirement

The practice of raising additional campaign funds after the election is over to pay off the candidate’s campaign debt.


The party members whose votes at the national convention officially determine the two parties’ presidential candidates. Most of the delegates at the convention are obligated to vote for the candidate chosen in primary elections or caucuses in their home state, and are known as “pledged” or “elected delegates.” Some delegates, however, are unpledged and can vote for any candidate at the convention. See Super-Delegate.

Delegate Committee

A group organized for the purpose of influencing the selection of one or more delegates. The term includes a group of delegates, a group of individuals seeking to become delegates and a group of individuals supporting delegates.


A politician whose rhetoric appeals to raw emotions such as fear and hatred in order to gain power.

Democratically-Financed Elections

See Public Financing


The inability of the U.S. government to get anything significant done because interest groups block all major change.

Dialing for Dollars

Making phone calls to potential big-money donors. A time-consuming and daily task undertaken by the candidates themselves as well as their key fundraisers.

Direct Mail

Any mailings made by a commercial vendor or made from a commercial list.


Any purchase or payment made by a political committee or any other person that is subject to the Federal Election Campaign Act.

Disclaimer Notice

Notices that are put on public communications to identify who paid for and authorized the communication and are required by the FEC.


The requirement that candidates, political parties, and PACs report the amounts and sources of their campaign contributions. Federal candidates must list each contributor’s name, address, employer, and occupation.


A U.S. House of Representatives District. Because senators represent an entire state, Senate races do not have districts associated with them.


A type of political speech using code words that appear to mean one thing to the general population but have a different meaning for a targeted part of the audience.


A voluntary financial contribution to a political organization.


An individual or organization that voluntary makes a financial contribution to a political organization.

Donor Base

A database comprised of contact information for past, present, and future donors.

Double Giving

The practice of making campaign contributions to all candidates or parties during an election, as a way of “hedging one’s bets” and having access to whomever wins.