Sunday, 9 October 2011
WHAT IS A PAC, AND WHAT TYPES ARE THERE?
PACs emerged in 1944, when a union body (CIO, today AFL-CIO) found the 1943 Smith Connaly Act blocking them from contributing to FDR's campaign fund (or any federal candidate); they appealed to members to contribute directly with great success.
def: '[PACs] are organizations dedicated to raising and spending money to either elect or defeat political candidates.' [about.com]
def: 'Legally, what constitutes a "PAC" for purposes of regulation is a matter of state and federal law. Under the Federal Election Campaign Act, an organization becomes a "political committee" by receiving contributions or making expenditures in excess of $1,000 for the purpose of influencing a federal election.' [wiki]See a themed list of pressure groups, including major PACs, at http://usgovinfo.about.com/blorgs.htm
FOUR TYPES: CONNECTED, NON-CONNECTED, SUPER-PACSs, LEADERSHIP PACs:
(1) CONNECTED - 'Most of the 4,600 active, registered PACs are "connected PACs"' [wiki] 'Most PACs are directly connected to specific corporations, labor groups, or recognized political parties.' These can only solicit contributions from employees/members. [about.com]
(2) NON-CONNECTED - 'Nonconnected or ideological PACs [of citizens/individuals] raise and spend money to elect candidates -- from any political party -- who support their ideals or agendas.'(egs: NRA, Emily's List) [about.com]
(3) LEADERSHIP PACs - 'A third type of PAC, called "leadership PACs" are formed by politicians to help fund the campaigns of other politicians. Politicians often create leadership PACs in an effort to prove their party loyalty or to further their goal of being elected to a higher office.' [about.com] '
A leadership PAC in U.S. politics is a political action committee established by a member of Congress to support other candidates. Under the FEC rules, leadership PACs are non-connected PACs, and can accept donations from an individual or other PACs. While a leadership PAC cannot spend funds to directly support the campaign of its sponsor (through mail or ads), it may fund travel, administrative expenses, consultants, polling, and other non-campaign expenses. It can also contribute to the campaigns of other candidates.
Between 2008 and 2009, leadership PACs raised and spent more than $47 million.' [wiki]
(4) SUPER PACs (SINCE 2010) - 'The 2010 election marks the rise of a new political committee, dubbed "super PACs," and officially known as "independent-expenditure only committees," which can raise unlimited sums from corporations, unions and other groups, as well as individuals. The super PACs were made possible by two judicial decisions. First the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision by the Supreme Court, which lifted spending limits. Second the Speechnow v. FEC decision by the D.C. Circuit Court, which invoked the logic of Citizens United to dispense with contribution limits on independent-expenditure committees.  The groups can also mount the kind of direct attacks on candidates that were not allowed in the past. Super PACs are not allowed to coordinate directly with candidates or political parties and are required to disclose their donors .
In summer 2011, comedian Stephen Colbert brought attention to the issue of Super PACs by forming his own. As of August 2011, 165,000 of his viewers had joined it.' [wiki]
LIMITS ON FUNDING; UNLIMITED AD SPEND; SpeechNow.org v. FEC 2010 Supreme Court Ruling:
'Under federal election laws, PACs can legally contribute only $5,000 to a candidate committee per election (primary, general or special). They can also give up to $15,000 annually to any national party committee, and $5,000 annually to any other PAC. However, there is no limit to how much PACs can spend on advertising in support of candidates or in promotion of their agendas or beliefs. PACs must register with and file detailed financial reports of monies raised and spent to the Federal Election Commission.' [about.com]
'Contributions by individuals to federal PACs are limited to $5,000 per year. It is important to note, however, that as a result of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decision in SpeechNow.org v. FEC, PACs which make only "independent expenditures" (that is, advertisements or other spending that calls for the election or defeat of a federal candidate but which is not coordinated with a federal candidate or political party) are not bound by this contribution limit.' [wiki] Read more about the case/ruling in this NYTimes article.
EMILY'S LIST + NRA PAC SPENDING COMPARED
Two contrasting groups. See Emily's List PAC spending 1990-2012; and NRA PAC spending 1990-2012.
2010-11 EXAMPLES OF super PAC SPENDINGA pro-Perry super-PAC, 'Make Us Great Again' PAC, plans to spend $55m supporting Texas Gov. Rick Perry in his Whitehouse campaign (Romney + Obama also have super PACs backing them).
Although they aren’t permitted to coordinate directly with the campaigns, which must follow strict federal restrictions on what they can raise and spend, many of the groups are staffed by former aides and fundraisers who know the candidates’ thinking and strategy. Watchdog groups see super PACs as just the latest erosion of campaign finance rules that date back to the Watergate era of the 1970s.
Republican-leaning super PACs were first influential in the 2010 congressional elections. Now, presidential contenders are receiving millions of dollars in financial backing from new free-spending, unregulated political action groups.
Make Us Great Again PAC, a super PAC supporting Republican front-runner Rick Perry, was co-founded by Mike Toomey, a former chief of staff to the Texas governor. Documents show the group plans to spend $55 million to support Perry’s White House run.
The Perry-aligned super PAC will have to compete with Restore Our Future, formed to boost his top rival, Mitt Romney. It raised $20 million from January through June. Its treasurer, Charles Spies, was general counsel for Romney’s 2008 White House bid.' [uselectionnews.com]
CHANGES IN PRIMARY DATES MEAN DONORS SECRET IN 5 EARLY REP. PRIMARIES'The Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune reported Thursday that an unintended consequence of Republican state officials moving up five key contests into January, is that voters won’t have any idea who is paying for advertising and other campaign activities until at least Jan. 31. That’s the financial disclosure deadline for big fundraising committees that support but operate independently of the candidates.
According to the Times-Tribune report, the pro-Paul “Revolution PAC” “will join other candidate-specific super PACs” supporting Texas Gov Rick Perry, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann in withholding the names of contributors until the caucuses and primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, and Florida are over.
The newspapers quoted Revolution PAC spokeswoman Mary Putnam as saying the group hopes to report contributions at the end of January of at least $10 million - $2 million more than Paul’s own campaign fund reported raising in the third quarter of this year.' [newsmax.com]