The Democratic and Republican national committees raised more money than ever from people giving $200 or less in the last election, but low-dollar donations still accounted for less than half the money the parties collected from individuals.

The Democratic National Committee saw the biggest increase in contributions from $200-and-under donors in 2003-04. It took in nearly $166 million worth, compared with about $38 million in the 2002 election cycle, a Federal Election Commission (search) analysis released Wednesday shows.

Its GOP counterpart, the Republican National Committee, collected $157 million from such donors in the last election season and about $103 million in 2001-2002.

Despite the increase, low-dollar contributions made up a smaller percentage of the two committees' overall money from individuals than they did in the 2002 election.

Those giving $200 or less accounted for roughly 46 percent of the DNC's contributions from individuals in the last election cycle and about 68 percent in the 2002 election, the commission study found.

Low-dollar donations made up about 45 percent of the money the RNC collected from individuals in the last election, compared with 65 percent in 2001-02.

That is in part because each party also collected more from people who gave the maximum allowed under the law in the last election. That limit was raised $5,000 to $25,000 a year starting in January 2003. The parties can use such "hard money" for any purpose, including supporting specific candidates.

The DNC collected $43.3 million from maxed-out hard money donors in the last election and $680,000 in the 2002 cycle. The RNC took in just under $61 million from them in 2003-04, compared with only about $3 million in the previous election season.

The FEC also found an increase in contributions from political action committees to the two national party committees. PACs (search) are funded by donations from their members; a company's employees can give to its political action committee, for example.

The DNC collected $3 million from PACs in 2003-04, compared with about $1 million in the 2002 cycle. The Republican National Committee collected just under $3 million from them in the last election and took in about $703,000 in the 2002 election season.

In all, the DNC and RNC each took in more than $390 million in the last election cycle, record fund raising they achieved despite a new ban on corporate, union and unlimited contributions known as soft money.

Before the law took effect, the parties could raise soft money to cover their overhead and general party activities such as get-out-the-vote drives and ads on political issues.