Who runs for Congress? Congress consists of a self-selecting group of people who choose to run on their own initiative. Sometimes the party organizations will ask a particular person to run. The table on the next page summarizes the requirements for holding office in the House and Senate.
House of Representatives
|Minimum Length of Citizenship||7 years||9 years|
In the past few decades, congressional elections have become very expensive. In the early 2000s, the average winning House race cost roughly $750,000, whereas a winning Senate campaign cost about $5 million. The money comes from a variety of sources: individual donors, political action committees (PACs), and party organizations (some of which is soft money—unregulated money given to political parties and advocacy groups). Federal law regulates donations, limiting how much an individual and a PAC can donate in a given election cycle. In 2002, Congress passed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (commonly known as McCain-Feingold), which banned soft money.