Political Action Committee

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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A group not endorsed by a candidate or political party but organized to engage in political election activities, especially the raising and spending of money for "campaigning." Some political action committees (PACs) are organized solely to help defeat a candidate deemed undesirable by the group.

PACs are most often organized around a particular trade, union, or business; they are also organized to promulgate particular social, economic, or political beliefs or agendas. For example, there are PACs formed to represent the interests of the pharmaceutical industry and the automotive industry. From an ideological perspective on ABORTION, there are both pro-life PACs and pro-choice PACs.

Some PACs are sponsored by a corporation, business, or LABOR UNION. Corporations, business interests, and LABOR UNIONS that sponsor PACs are prohibited from contributing their organizations' funds to the PACs they sponsor, but employees or members of the sponsoring organizations may contribute.

Many types of special-interest groups have established PACs, including the following examples: coal operators, hospitals, labor unions, banks, doctors, feminist groups, lawyers, insurance agents, pharmaceutical companies, and manufacturers. These groups commonly form PACs to promote their legislative goals. Some of these, such as the coal industry and labor PACs, generally give most of their donations to candidates they expect to favor their legislative agendas. Other PACs, such as those created by chiropractors or publishers, may dole out small contributions to dozens of candidates with widely varying political views.

Nearly all PACs have specific legislative agendas. Special-interest PACs are a major force in the financing of congressional campaigns. Their contributions heavily favor incumbents. These PACs' numbers and influence are growing. For example, in 1976 there were only 608 PACs; just 20 years later, in 1996, there were more than 4,000 PACs.

Some PACs are not sponsored by an organization. For example, some members of Congress have formed their own PACs. These PACs are separate from their candidate committees. This separation allows them to accept contributions and distribute larger sums than they otherwise could through their own candidate committee. A newly formed PAC must register with the FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION (FEC) within ten days of its formation. The PAC must provide the name and address for the...

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