DemDaily: The Power of PACs

October 26, 2018

Political Action Committees (PACs) play a major role in the funding, and influence, of political elections.
The question is -- which ones, and those behind them, are playing the biggest influence in the 2018 elections?

A Political Action Committee (PAC) is a political committee that raises and spends funds for the purposes of electing or defeating a candidate. Organized under Federal Elections Commission (FEC) law and reporting requirements, a PAC may contribute to a campaign, party committee and other PACs.

Power of PACs
PACs were born into the American electoral process almost 75 years ago, when labor's Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) formed the first one to raise money for the 1944 re-election of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Their power and permanent place in politics has grown steadily, but the last decade ushered in an era of unprecedented political giving with the rise of "Super PACs" following the 2010 Supreme Court rulings that took the limits off of "independent expenditure" campaigns.

What is a ...

Trump foe/Atty Michael Avenatti helped launch LeftOfCenter PAC last week in Boston. Founded by political veterans Deb Kozikowski & Mara Dolan, it advocates ideological diversity in the Dem Party. A potential presidential candidate, Avenatti's separate Fight PAC helps candidates

Organized as "separate segregated funds" apart from general corporate or treasury funds, a connected PAC allows a business, industry, labor or ideological organization to contribute above and beyond individual limits to candidates and issue campaigns.

Likewise, an individual or group other than a party committee may form a non-connected PAC which is unconstrained by the fundraising limitations of donors affiliated with a connected organization, and may accept individual contributions from the general public.

PACs may contribute to a candidate campaign ($5,000 per primary, general or special election), other PACs ($5,000 annually), and national party committees ($15,000 annually).

Who Gives? Top PACs to Candidates
In the midterm elections, PACs have directly contributed $352 million to US House candidates, and $95 million to US Senate campaigns.

PACs, particularly pro-business committees under a Republican-controlled House, overwhelmingly give to incumbents as, on average, 90+% will be reelected. Ideological groups are more likely to take a chance on open seat and challenger candidates running for the first time.

2018 PAC Expenditures by Industry (as of 10/16/18). *Does not include Independent Expenditures

The top 20 PACs to candidates in 2018 include the National Beer Wholesalers Association (approx $3 million), AT&T, Northrup Grumman, Sheetmetal Workers Union, National Air Traffic Controllers Assn, Operating Engineers Union, National Association of Realtors, American Bankers Association, Credit Union National Association, Majority Committee PAC, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, American Crystal Sugar, United Parcel Service, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Boeing Co, American Association for Justice, Comcast, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Prosperity Action.
Top Leadership PACs
PAC Name Associated Elected Official Expenditures to Candidates
Majority Committee PAC House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) $2,260,000
Prosperity Action  House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI)  $1,983,000 
AmeriPAC: The Fund for a Greater America House Minority Whip Steny H Hoyer (D-MD) $1,804,200  
House Freedom Fund Mark R Meadows (R-NC) $1,428,853 
Eye of the Tiger PAC House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA)   $963,000 
Making America Prosperous Kevin Brady (R-TX), Chair Ways & Means  $757,000
BRIDGE PAC  Asst Minority Leader James Clyburn (D-SC) $716,500
More Conservatives PAC Patrick McHenry (R-NC)  $716,000
New Pioneers PAC Greg Walden (R-OR) $709,500 
PAC to the Future House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) $685,000 

Leadership PACs are formed by current office holders to help other elected officials and candidates, and are also often an indication of higher ambitions.

In addition to the top ten (above), many potential presidential contenders have PACs, including:

Vice President Mike Pence (R/Great America Committee), Ex-VP Joe Biden (D/American Possibilities), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio/America Works), Cory Booker (D-NJ/CoryPAC), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY/Off the Sidelines), Kamala Harris (D-CA/Fearless for the People), and Elizabeth Warren ((D-MA/PAC for a Level Playing Field).

Super PACs are committees that makes expenditures independent of campaigns for the purposes of overtly advocating for or against candidates -- often in the form of television, mail or other communications.

Super PACs may accept unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations and labor organizations, but are prohibited from contributing directly to, or coordinating with, candidate campaigns.

In the 2018 elections, 2,217 groups organized as super PACs have reported total receipts of approximately $1.1 billion and total independent expenditures in excess of $628 million.

Top Super PACs
Group Viewpoint /Ideology Supports /Opposes Expenditures
Congressional Leadership Fund Conservative Protecting GOP House Majority $104,154,031
Senate Leadership Fund Conservative Protecting GOP Senate Majority $72,513,743
Senate Majority PAC Liberal Winning Democratic Senate Majority $48,962,868
Women Vote!  Liberal Affiliated EMILY's List $25,376,284
America First Action Conservative affiliated pro-Trump America First Policies $22,726,267
New Republican PAC Conservative Supports Rick Scott, US Senate Florida $18,604,594
Defend Arizona Conservative Supports Martha McSally, US Senate Arizona $17,960,864
House Majority PAC  Liberal Winning Democratic House Majority  $17,619,425
National Assn of Realtors Non-Partisan Interests of Industry  $12,551,928
Club for Growth Action  Conservative Taxes, Economic Issues $10,773,029

Others key players include:
With Honor Fund (Veterans), Independence USA PAC (Liberal), Restoration PAC (Conservative), League of Conservation Voters (Liberal), Patients for Affordable Drugs Action, Americas PAC (Conservative), New American Jobs Fund (Liberal), Highway 31(Liberal/supports Jones), Change Now PAC (Liberal), Wisconsin Next PAC (Conservative/supports Vukmir), Americans for Properity Action (Conservative), Future45 (Conservative), Texans Are PAC (Conservative/supports Cruz), Integrity New Jersey (Conservative, opposes Menendez), No Labels Action.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the 2018 midterm elections are slated to cost $5 billion -- making it by far the costliest congressional election cycle in U.S. history.

Until the system changes, play ball.

DemList will keep you informed.

DemDaily: What Are The Limits? 10/5

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: Center for Responsive Politics/Open Secrets, Ballotpedia

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