• October 13, 2022
  • Capitol Canary

What Are Political Action Committees (PAC)? Types & Examples

Political Action Committees (PACs) are organizations that allow individuals and corporations to pool their money together to donate to political candidates, parties, or causes. There are several different types of PACs, each with its own rules and regulations. In this article, we will define what PACs are and describe five different types of PACs. We will also discuss how Capitol Canary from Quorum can help users gain insights into PAC donations and activities.

What are Political Action Committees (PACs)?

A PAC is a political committee that pools together money from individuals, corporations, unions, and other organizations to donate to political candidates or causes. PACs are commonly used by corporations, labor unions, and other special-interest groups to influence the political process. They are also regulated by the Federal Election Commission (FEC), and they must disclose their donors and expenditures.

An individual can only contribute up to $5,000 per calendar year to a PAC. However, a PAC can receive an unlimited amount of money from both individuals and corporations. PACs can give unlimited amounts of money to candidates and parties, but they cannot give directly to campaigns. Instead, PACs make independent expenditures, which are not coordinated with any candidate or party. PACs can also make contributions to other PACs.

Types of PACs

The five main types of PACs are SSFs, nonconnected committees, super PACs, hybrid PACs, and leadership PACs.

SSFs

SSFs (Separate segregated funds) are the most common type of PAC. They are typically associated with corporations or labor unions and raise funds from employees or members to support candidates that share their interests. 

SSFs are not allowed to use corporate or union funds for political activities. All funds must be from individual contributors. However, they can give unlimited amounts of money to candidates, parties, and other PACs so long as they disclose donors and expenditures to the FEC.

Nonconnected Committees

Nonconnected committees are not affiliated with any corporation or union. Instead, they are usually created by special-interest groups to support specific causes or candidates. They differ from SSFs in that they can solicit funds from both individuals and corporations. Nonconnected committees are typically formed to support state or local candidates or to address a single issue.

Super PACs

A super PAC is a type of nonconnected PAC that can raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations, and unions. However, they are not allowed to coordinate directly with candidates or parties. Super PACs can only make independent expenditures. The “super” in super PAC refers to their ability to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money. They may advocate for or against a candidate, but they cannot give money directly to campaigns.

Hybrid PACs

A hybrid PAC is a type of PAC that can solicit funds from both individuals and corporations. They can only use corporate funds for non-political activities, such as overhead expenses, but they can use funds from individuals to support political causes and candidates. Like other PACs, hybrid PACs must disclose their donors and expenditures to the FEC.

Leadership PACs

A leadership PAC is a type of PAC that is associated with an individual politician. These PACs are typically used to support other candidates or causes. Leadership PACs are not allowed to donate directly to campaigns. Instead, they can only make independent expenditures. This type of PAC is relatively new and often used strategically by politicians to support causes or candidates that they are interested in.

Noteworthy PAC Examples

There are many noteworthy PACs, such as the National Rifle Association’s PAC, which donates to candidates that support gun rights, and Planned Parenthood’s PAC, which donates to candidates that support abortion rights. There are also PACs that support specific causes, such as the environment or medical research.

Some of the most historic PACs include the National Committee for an Effective Congress, which was created in 1946 to support candidates that were committed to civil rights, and the political action committee of the National Organization for Women, which was created in 1966 to support female candidates.

PACs can have a significant impact on elections. In the 2018 midterm elections, PACs spent a total of $86 million on federal races. The top five spenders were the National Rifle Association’s PAC, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Congressional Leadership Fund, Priorities USA, and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.

Final thoughts

It is important to track PAC donations, expenditures, filings, as well as donor trends. This information can be used to inform your own political donations and help you make more informed decisions about which PACs to support. Capitol Canary from Quorum offers a platform that can help users streamline their PAC insights and utilize software to compare PAC summaries. This helps to gain a better view of who is donating and to what types of causes.