When it comes to public affairs and political fundraising, there are a lot of acronyms floating around. Two of the most common are PAC and Super PAC.
PACs have been a part of American politics in since the 1940s while Super PACs are relatively new. Since their inception, Super PACs have been heavily criticized for flooding Washington with corporate dollars, and traditional PACs are often lumped into the criticism. But this criticism of PACs is often undeserved and the result of a misunderstanding of the differences between PACs and Super PACs. So what exactly is the difference?
Keep reading to find out.
Types of PACs
First off, let’s look at the three primary types of fundraising committees:
- Non-connected PAC
- Separate Segregated Fund PAC
- Super PACs
A separate segregated fund is a type of PAC established by a corporation, labor union or trade association. The second type is the non-connected PAC, which is funded solely through individual contributions and is unable to accept money from corporations or unions. The last type is the Super PAC, which can raise unlimited amounts of money from corporations, individuals, and unions for independent political expenditures like commercials or mailings.
All three types of fundraising committees are regulated by the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The FEC is responsible for implementing and enforcing campaign finance laws and has jurisdiction over federal elections, including the regulation of contributions to candidates and committees.
What is a PAC?
A Political Action Committee (PAC) is a type of organization that works to influence the outcome of elections, most often through providing financial support to candidates. PACs are separate from political parties and individual candidates and have no official authority.
PACs are made up of individuals who share a common agenda in respect to the policies and issues supported by political candidates. PACs serve as an important avenue for voicing opinions on key issues, offering citizens an additional form of engagement with their elected representatives.
PAC contributions for federal elections are limited to $5,000 per year per individual. PACs can donate $10,000 to candidates ($5,000 for primary elections and $5,000 for general elections) and $15,000 to party committees.
What is a Separate Segregated Fund (SSF)?
As mentioned above, separate segregated funds are established by corporations, labor unions or trade associations. These funds can raise money from their members and use it for various political activities. The funding limits for segregated fund PACs vary by state, but typically they are prohibited from raising more than a certain amount of money from non-members. In addition, the funds may only be used for activities related to elections or other political matters.
The National Association of Realtors PAC (RPAC) is an example of a traditional PAC. In 2022, over 15,000 individuals donated to the PAC, many donating the maximum amount of $5,000.
RPAC states that all donations are used “to help elect candidates who understand and support their interests.” Since all donations and contributions are publicly available, we can see that RPAC contributed $3,986,000 to federal candidates in 2021-2022, split almost evenly between Republicans and Democrats.