Fun Facts about PACs
Fun Facts about PACs
Political Action Committees, or PACs, exist to advance political causes or further the campaign efforts of candidates. The organizations collect donations and parcel out those monies. A PAC is ostensibly a private entity. Federal law requires donations and contributions to political candidates from businesses and unions to be funneled through PACs.
The NRA PAC
Legally, a PAC must
disclose all it's receipts and disbursement during each campaign cycle.
The numbers can get huge. A particularly large PAC is the NRA PAC, or
National Realtor's Association Political Action Committee.They started the 2008 election cycle with over $13 million in the bank. They spent $6.5 million of that; the money was divided almost evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Their biggest expense (also a decidedly nonpolitical expense) was a series of payments totaling $108,000 to the Internal Revenue Service; PACs are taxable entities. Their second largest expenditure was $56,000 to Public Opinion Strategies, a survey research company with offices in Washington DC.
Every PAC is regulated by federal law. One purpose of the law is to prevent abuse and misuse of the PAC structure by candidates and organizations. In 2004 Nancy Pelosi was fined $21,000 by the Federal Election Commission for funneling over $100,000 in contributions to other Democratic candidates through 2 PACs. The law requires all PACS controlled by the same person to be regulated as a single entity. Ms. Pelosi was House Minority Leader at the time of the infraction. Ms. Pelosi controlled two PACs at that time; Team Majority and PAC to the Future. Spokespeople for Ms. Pelosi reported that they had received approval from regulatory agencies before making the disbursements.
All PACs are limited to accepting no more than $5000 in contributions from individuals per candidate per election. A PAC can have its expenses underwritten by a union or a business, but that union or business may not contribute from its treasury to the coffers of the PAC. On the other hand, a PAC sponsored by a union or business may solicit and accept contributions from its members. executives, shareholders, and their families.
Some PACs are considered independent of any political cause or candidate. These 'non-connected' PACs are permitted to accept donations from any source, including other PACs. The fastest growing category of PAC is the non-connected type. In March of 2009, the Federal Election Commission reported 1594 such entities, compared to 3017 affiliated PACs.
Election laws permit the formation of so-called 'leadership PACs", which are not formally associated with a candidate or political cause. The Federal Election Commisson provides this definition of a leadership PAC:
A leadership PAC is defined as a political committee that is directly or indirectly established, financed, maintained or controlled by a candidate or an individual holding federal office, but is not an authorized committee of the candidate or officeholder and is not affiliated with an authorized committee of a candidate or officeholder.
"Committee for Southwest Virginia" is a leadership PAC headquartered in Abingdon, Virginia. In 2008 the PAC received $106,000 in contributions from individuals, organizations, and other PACs. They spent $82,000 over that same period. Some of the disbursements included:
Boyd for Congress
Carole Pratte for Delegate
Deeds for Virginia
Dan Bowling for Delegate
Leadership PACs may have an "Affiliated Committee Name" (the previous PAC did not have such a name), The PAC operating under the name Impact is registered with Charles E. Schumer as the Affiliated Committee name. Mr. Schumer is a Democrat Senator from New York. On March 23, 2010, the PAC held a fundraiser at the Bistro Bis restaurant in Washington DC. The contribution schedule was:
- $5,000 PAC Host
- $4,800 Personal Host
- $2,500 PAC Co-Host
- $2,400 Personal Co-Host
- $1,000 Attend
Iranian Americans have a PAC. IAPAC, or the Iranian American Political Action Committee, is a connected PAC, with ties to the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA). According to its misson statement, the PAC focuses on domestic issues and does not involve itself in issues of foreign policy. IAPAC clearly stipulates on its web site that federal election law permits only US citizens or permanent residents over 17 years of age to contribute to any PAC.
Contributions to PACs by private individuals are not tax deductible. The Tax Reform Act of 1986 enacted this stipulation. A donation to a specific candidate may be tax deductible, as may a donation to a specific political cause. Check with your tax accountant and always obtain proper paperwork when donating to any organization.
Keep abreast of PAC comings and goings by visiting the FEC (Federal Election Commission) web site at http://www.fec.gov. Every PAC is required by law to report income and outgo for each individual contributor and recipient, The activities of PACS are a fascinating insight into the operations of elections throughout the United States.