What are PACs?

The acronym “PAC” stands for “political action committee.”  PACs are special organizations that are set up for the purpose of collecting contributions from large numbers of people, aggregating those contributions into one giant pool, and then making contributions from that pool to campaigns and organizations.

PACs are generally based on one special issue or party interest.  Thus, PACs exist that donate solely to Republicans in Missouri, to candidates who are pro-life, to candidates who are supported by the United Auto Workers Union, and a myriad of other causes.

There are two very different types of PACs under modern campaign finance law.  The first is the federal PAC, which collects donations to distribute to candidates who are running for federal office such as congress or the presidency.  The second type of PAC collects “state money” for use in state elections, such as races for governor, the city council, or any other non-federal elections.  This distinction is important.  Due to the various campaign finance laws promulgated by the Federal Election Commission and the state agencies responsible for this area, a federal PAC generally only makes contributions to federal candidates and vice versa.

Why PAC’s Are Important

PACs are important for several reasons. First and foremost, in many states, as well as in federal elections, PACs may contribute more money to candidates than individuals.  For example, in one state, individuals may only contribute $500 to candidates running for the state legislature per election, while PACs in the same state may contribute five times that amount, or $2500.  Of course in some states, both PACs and individuals may contribute unlimited amounts to candidates.

The second reason PACs are so important, even in states with no contribution limits, is that PACs often have plenty of money to spend on candidates.  Whereas individuals may not be able to spend large sums on political activity, PACs raise money from a large donor base through direct mail, fundraisers, and the like, and spend a good chunk of that money solely on funding campaigns.  Be sure to include PAC fundraising as a part of your campaign’s fundraising strategy.


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