Key Political Documents

Political action committees, better known as PACs, exist to raise money and campaign awareness for a specific issue or political candidate.

Private groups, PACs are only recognized once they raise at least $1,000. The following regulations exist to prevent any one PAC from influencing a campaign too heavily:

  • Regulations exist to limit the amount of money that a PAC can contribute directly to a political party, a political candidate or another organization.
  • Regulations exist to limit the amount of money that a PAC can receive from an individual.

However, no limits exist on how much money a PAC can spend on advertising or in support of the issue or candidate it supports.

PAC spending and fundraising has been on the rise throughout the years. In 2003 and for half of 2004, the Federal Election Commission released figures that stated PACs raised $629.3 million.

Types of Political Action Committees

PACs that don’t represent specific candidates are categorized based on the issue that they represent. The most common categories are:

  • agriculture
  • business (encompasses retail and services)
  • communication and technology
  • city and county issues
  • defense
  • energy and natural resources
  • finance and insurance
  • foreign countries and affairs
  • health care
  • organized labor
  • law
  • manufacturing
  • public employees
  • real estate and construction
  • transportation.

Many PACs are directly connected to or closely affiliated with a specific group or organization. These include corporations and political parties. In these cases, the PAC shares the goals of the group to which it is attached, concentrating on the most important issues of that group. These PACs usually solicit money from members of the group (i.e., employees of the corporation or members of the political party).

Non-connected PACs are another type of PAC that is not associated with a specific group or organization. These PACs solicit money from the general public, concentrating on people who share their beliefs. Non-connected PACs then use the money they have raised to try to elect candidates that support their beliefs.

Leadership PACs are designed to elect specific candidates. These can be created by politicians to further party loyalty or to attempt to get elected into a higher position.

List of Top PACs

According to data released by the Federal Election Commission, the names of the top political action committees ranked by Total Receipts in 2006 were:

  1. Service Employees International Union, with $35,281,882, represents workers from more than 100 different professions.
  2. EMILY’s List, with $34,118,930, helps elect Democratic, pro-choice women to office.
  3. Moveon.org, with $27,818,829, is a liberal public policy organization.
  4. American Federation of Teachers, with $16,368,906, represents teachers, school-related personnel, higher education and more.
  5. ActBlue, with $15,974,073, helps elect Democratic candidates to office.
  6. American Federation of State/County/Municipal Employees, with $15,559,423, is one of the top three largest labor unions in the United States and represents more than 1 million workers.
  7. National Association of Realtors, with $13,477,358, represents the issues of those in the real estate industry.
  8. Teamsters Union, with $13,472,214, is also one of the top labor unions in the country and represents workers.
  9. Laborers’ International Union of North America (also known as Laborers’ Union), with $13,001,651, represents laborers in both the United States and Canada and has more than 700,000 members.
  10. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, with $12,943,801, represents workers in the electrical industry in both the United States and Canada.