United States Green Party Structure

Political action committees, better known as PACs, exist to raise money and campaign awareness for a specific issue or a candidate. This is often done through lobbying.

Lobbying is defined as an effort to achieve some specific end. In politics, lobbying is vying for a specific act of legislation or a specific goal and attempting to influence the decision of government regarding that legislation or goal.

Regulations regarding PACs exist to prevent any one group from influencing a campaign too heavily.

Concerns About Lobbying

Lobbyists often have connections with organizations, corporations and PACs that contribute money to campaigns. This means that sometimes politicians may be swayed not just by the information the lobbyist presents and the support behind the issue but also by the possibility of monetary contributions.

Corruption and negative images have been associated with many lobbyists, PACs and lobbying campaigns in the past as a result of this connection.

Lobbying in U.S. Congress

Lobbying goes back to the early days of Congress and is very widespread in the United States.

Because of past corruption and scandals, which date back to the 1900s, legislation has been made that regulates and monitors lobbying. Lobbyists and the groups they work for must report any contributions and expenditures that they make.

Lobbyists have fought against any type of regulation or monitoring throughout history, as lobbying itself falls under the right to petition and is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution, which is part of the Bill of Rights.

Regulation of Political Action Committees

Many political action committee legal issues have been solved by enacting requirements that force PACs to disclose information on monetary dealings and exchanges. Limitations also help to prevent any PAC from exerting too much influence.

Most political action committees are now subject to the following limitations:

  • cannot accept contributions by individuals of more than $5,000 (per year)
  • cannot contribute more than $15,000 to a political party (per year)
  • cannot contribute more than $5,000 to a candidate (per election)
  • cannot contribute more than $5,000 to another political action committee (per year).

These regulations do not apply to grassroots lobbyists. Grassroots lobbying is done by volunteer members of the public to try to influence government views or legislation. Grassroots lobbying is not regulated by the government, though legislation is under consideration to do so.

Additionally, in 1995 the United States enacted the federal Lobbying Disclosure Act. This piece of legislation requires paid lobbyists that have contact with members of Congress or officials in the executive branch of the federal U.S. government to register. The act also dictates that these lobbyists file reports twice yearly.

Many other regulations have been proposed to the federal government regarding the legality of the activities of political action committees and lobbyists. While many fail because of constitutional infringement and opposition of lobbyists and PACs, among other groups, many are still in the process of going through Congress for approval and could later be enacted.