Political Action Committee
Originating in the United States, a Political Action Committee or PAC is an organization set up to advance causes or individuals by providing material and financial support to favored political candidates. PACs must be registered with the Federal Election Commission and are divided into two categories: separate segregated funds (SSFs) and nonconnected committees.
- Basically, SSFs are political committees established and administered by corporations, labor unions, membership organizations or trade associations. These committees can only solicit contributions from individuals associated with connected or sponsoring organization. By contrast, nonconnected committees--as their name suggests--are not sponsored by or connected to any of the aforementioned entities and are free to solicit contributions from the general public. .
The number of federal PACs are on the rise, with nonconnected committees being the fastest growing group.
US Federal laws prohibit other types of organizations from endorsing and financially supporting political candidates for public office to prevent corporate and special interest group control of the political process, but PACs can be legally used to provide funds to and oppose or support candidates directly. PACs are limited by the amount of funds they can receive and give to individuals and institutions per an allotted timeframe, but analysts note that this important monitoring measure can be surpassed by creating a group of PACs devoted to the same purpose. In other words, even though a political candidate cannot legally accept more than $5,000 from a specific PAC in the primary election, he or she can actually receive much more than that from related PACs endorsing the same cause. In this way well-funded lobbying groups can indirectly and effectively promote their causes by providing financial incentive to specific political candidates through the creation of multiple same-purpose PACs.