Thursday, October 7, 2010

Political Actions Committees are not the root of all evil

With all the talk about PAC's, lobbyist, vote buying and corruption I felt the need to be more informed about this issue. What I found out is that PAC's aren't the root of all evil, as a matter of fact to paraphrase Christine O'Donnell, they are you and me.

What/Who is a PAC?
A Political Action Committee, or PAC, is the name commonly given to a private group, regardless of size, organized to elect political candidates or to advance the outcome of a political issue or legislation.[1] Legally, what constitutes a "PAC" for purposes of regulation is a matter of state and federal law. Under the Federal Election Campaign Act, an organization becomes a "political committee" by receiving contributions or making expenditures in excess of $1,000 for the purpose of influencing a federal election

Some call it legal money laundering;
Currently, special interests that want to finance a candidate's campaign without the public knowing about it use PACs to launder the money. Instead of giving directly to the candidate, the donor -- gambling interests, for instance -- gives it to a PAC, which then commingles the donation with other funds, which then gives it to another PAC, which then gives it to the candidate.

The candidate knows to whom he or she is beholden, but the process makes it virtually impossible for the public to follow the money trail.

That's not true, there is nothing that prevents the public from following the money.
When an interest group, union, or corporation wants to contribute to federal candidates or parties, it must do so through a PAC. These PACs receive and raise money from a "restricted class," generally consisting of managers and shareholders in the case of a corporation, and members in the case of a union or other interest group. The PAC may then make donations to political campaigns. PACs and individuals are the only entities allowed to contribute funds to candidates for federal office. Contributions from corporate or labor union treasuries are illegal, though they may sponsor a PAC and provide financial support for its administration and fundraising. Overall, PACs account for less than thirty percent of total contributions in U.S. Congressional races, and considerably less in presidential races.

Are PACs the problem or are Alabama's campaign fiance laws the problem?
Alabama's campaign finance laws are set up to hide the money trail. There are few limitations on contributions and those contributions are often laundered by unlimited money transfers from one PAC to another so you can't tell who is giving what to whom. I knew all that and was properly outraged, but I didn't realize SoS Beth Chapman's office is just a glorified stenography service for campaigns and PACs with no ability or responsibility to check the accuracy of reports.

Prior to the Citizens United Ruling, this was federal law;
Contributions by individuals to federal PACs are limited to $5,000 per year. It is important to note, however, that as a result of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decision in v. FEC, PACs which make only "independent expenditures" (that is, advertisements or other spending that calls for the election or defeat of a federal candidate but which is not coordinated with a federal candidate or political party) are not bound by this contribution limit.

Corporations and unions may not contribute directly to federal PACs, though they may pay for the administrative costs of a PAC affiliated with the specific corporation or union. Corporate-affiliated PACs may only solicit contributions from executives, shareholders, and their families, while union-affiliated PACs may only solicit contributions from members. "Independent" PACs not affiliated with a corporation, union, or trade or membership association may solicit contributions from the general public but must pay their operating costs from these regulated contributions.

Federal multi-candidate PACs are limited in the amount of money they can contribute to candidate campaigns or other organizations:

at most $5,000 per candidate per election. Elections such as primaries, general elections and special elections are counted separately.
at most $15,000 per political party per year.
at most $5,000 per PAC per year.
Under federal law, PACs are not limited in their ability to spend money independently of a candidate campaign. This may include expenditures on activities in support of (or against) a candidate, as long as they are not coordinated with the candidate.

If two or more PACs share the same sponsoring organization, they are considered to be "affiliated" and their total donations are counted under aggregate limits, i.e. the total donations from all may not exceed $5,000 for a specific candidate in a given election.

Alabama has a long list of registered Political Action Committees from the Confederate Heritage PAC to the Alabama Federation of Democratic Women to The AL Marijuana Party.

I learned our elected officials have PACs via a 2008 CREW report.
Today, CREW released the most complete list of House members’ Political Action Committees (PAC) available to date. CREW research found that out of 432 House members: 232 have PACs, 133 House members do not have PACs, 67 House members’ offices refused to disclose an affiliation with a PAC, 113 Democrats have PACs, and 119 Republicans have PACs.

Legislation passed last year requires lobbyists to disclose their contributions to any entity "established, financed, maintained or controlled" by a member of Congress, but members of Congress do not have to identify their affiliation with PACs.

Is this about banning PAC to PAC transfers or is it about putting the screws to the Teachers Union (AEA) and so called gambling interest (Milton McGregor)? Based on my research I say it's the later.

District 5 Democratic Congressional nominee Steve Raby said it best;

Political Action Committees are a reality of politics.

In relation to the ongoing, pre election, BINGO, so called, vote buying in not so Sweet Home Alabama, what Ol' Fart said all the damn way;
This is, to put it succinctly, a political hatchet job. Also, next legislative session when your taxes are increased because Alabama has no money to meet it’s obligations, don’t cry to me about the burden. I’m not saying that a lottery or gaming is the panacea to resolve everything, it’s simply another revenue stream. Plus the 6,000 or so highly paid persons are back to work paying taxes.

You claim to be republicans, but you have forgotten the golden rule. For the free enterprise system to work, money has to change hands amongst a great number of people. Not just the high and mighty few.

PAC's help the little guy's and gals compete with the high and mighty few.

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