Political Action Committees can often be complicated affairs. This section attempts to answer some common questions TestPAC receives about definitions, process, and objectives.
What is a political action committee?
A political action committee (PAC) is a private organization that works to advance a political agenda. A PAC can be formed to financially back a candidate running for office, support or oppose specific issues or legislation, or generally influence politics in some way. There are different types of political actions committees based on the various interactions, affiliations and relationships a committee has with a candidate or organization. There are three main types of PACs:
- Connected PACs: connected PACs are established by businesses, labor unions, trade groups, or health organizations. Connected PACs are “connected” to their parent organization or corporation, and are controlled by a limited group of people (usually managers, shareholders, board of directors, etc.)
- Non-connected PACs: Non-connected PACs revolve around a single issue, ideological goal, party, or candidate. Non-connected PACs can accept donations from a variety of sources, including business PACs, organizations, and individuals. Non-connected PACs must adhere to the donation limits enforced by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) Test PAC is a non-connected PAC.
- Independent Expenditure Only Committees (Super PACs): Super PACs rose from the United States Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United vs. The FEC. Super PACs are able to accept donations in unlimited amounts from corporations, labor unions, organizations and individuals. Super PACs are not allowed to coordinate with candidates or political parties, though the vagueness of the law leaves room for much interpretation of what is considered acceptable behavior in this area.
How did campaign finance laws change after Citizens United Vs. The FEC?
Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission, often referred to as the “corporations are people” ruling, was a 2010 United States Supreme Court decision that fundamentally changed campaign finance laws in America. Prior to Citizens United, US campaign finances were regulated largely through the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA) which, in addition to other key provisions, prohibited corporations, labor organizations, and national banks from donating to campaigns while also setting a $5,000 cap on PAC donations per calendar year.
Thirty-one years later, FECA was amended through the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA, McCain–Feingold Act). The McCain-Feingold Act was passed with two goals in mind: to prevent political parties and committees from spending funds not subject to federal limits and prohibit any corporation or organization from running candidate advertisements within 30 days of a primary or caucus or 60 days of a general election.
During the 2004 presidential elections, the conservative non-profit organization Citizens United filed a complaint with the FEC against the release of Michael Moore’s film “Fahrenheit 9/11″, which the organization argued was political advertisement and therefore violated the 60-day restriction included in the McCain-Feingold Act. The FEC, however, ruled against Citizens United, stating there was “no reason to believe the respondents violated the Act because the film, associated trailers and website represented bona fide commercial activity, not “contributions” or “expenditures” as defined by the Federal Election Campaign Act.”
Four years later, however, Citizens United found themselves the target of similar restrictions, this time stemming from the release of their own film entitled “Hillary: The Movie”. The US District Court of Columbia ruled that Citizens United had violated the 30-day restriction on political advertising laid out in the McCain-Feingold Act, which ultimately led to a ruling against the organization.
Months after the district court ruling, the case was then docketed by the United States Supreme Court, which ultimately overturned the district court’s ruling, stating “no sufficient governmental interest justifies limits on the political speech of nonprofit or for-profit corporations.”
And so, as a result of Citizens United Vs. The FEC, campaign finance limitations for corporations, unions, and other organizations became a thing of the past. This ruling has completely changed the landscape of American Elections, and has resulted in a flood of money which often comes from anonymous sources and shadowy organizations.
Where Does Test PAC fit into all of this?
TestPAC is a great experiment in the power of the individual vs. corporate interest. Rather than rely on corporate backing, TestPAC receives all of it’s donations through support from members. Donations typically range between $5 and $200. This donation structure ensures that TestPAC is funded by the people. In short, TestPAC works as the antithesis of a Super PAC model.
How can I get involved?
The first step to getting involved is to join the discussion at www.reddit.com/r/testpac and/or to make a donation to TestPAC HERE.
How did TestPAC Start?
In January 2012, readers of Reddit.com self-organized and created our own Political Action Committee.
Who are the officers and what do they do?
Test PAC officers carry out the daily operations of Test PAC. From addressing media inquiries to promoting campaigns, the officers provide coordination and act according to the will of the membership. There are also powers delegated to certain officers to ensure efficiency and legality when it comes to campaigns.
What influence will Test PAC have on U.S. politics?
That’s for the people to decide, but generally speaking Test PAC is able to collect donations and use them to either advance an issue, promote or oppose a piece of legislation, or donate to a candidate. This separates us from some other non-profit organizations, who are prohibited from directly participating in politics on such a level.