From their first appearance in 1944 and their meteoric rise in the decades that have followed, it is impossible to deny that PACs have played a central role in influencing successful races across the country.
The majority of PACs can be segmented into corporate, labor, and ideological categories. Republicans historically have fared much better than Democrats from corporate PACs and associations; according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Republicans received 56% of corporate PAC funds during the 2002 cycle.
A quick survey of the top ten Republican friendly PACs during the 2002 cycle identifies the following: National Association of Realtors, National Automobile Dealers Association, National Beer Wholesalers Association, National Association of Home Builders, United Parcel Service, Associated Builders and Contractors, Credit Union Association, National Rifle Association, and the American Bankers Association.
The campaign finance legislation signed last year went into effect on
November 6, 2002, though the rules regarding PAC donations changed very little. The maximum a PAC may contribute to a candidate is $10,000 over the course of an election cycle, which includes $5,000 for the primary and $5,000 for the general election period. PACs may also make in-kind contributions in the form of catering, event costs, etc., but these may not surpass the total giving limits.
The maximum a congressional campaign may give to another congressional campaign is $2,000 over the entire election cycle. As a result, many Members of Congress have formed Leadership PACs as a separate committee structure, allowing them to follow the general PAC guidelines and contribute up to $5,000 each for the primary and general cycles. The number of registered PACs continues to grow, and even a conservative estimate includes more than 150 leadership PACs affiliated with current or retired members of Congress.
It is clear that PACs will play an even more significant role in the 2004 elections. Soft money contributions, including corporate contributions, have been banned in all forms; as a result, many PACs will be required to significantly boost their internal fundraising programs. Instead of giving to the national parties, PACs will likely increase the amount and number of contributions to individual candidates, enhancing YOUR bottom line.