PACs and SuperPACs

Nov 15, 2012

During the campaign season leading up to Election Day we heard a lot about PACS and SuperPacs - Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports these entities have established themselves on the political landscape.

A PAC - "Political Action Committee" - is considered to be any political committee that supports candidates or other political committees by making contributions only (PACs do not make direct expenditures on behalf of candidates).

Senator Liz Krueger formed the "No Bad Apples" PAC, which backed candidates including Cecilia Tkaczyk and George Latimer for state Senate.

Super PACs can support a candidate with unlimited, often anonymous, donations from companies, unions, or individuals. Super PACs can't contribute directly to a candidate, but they can run favorable ads about a candidate—or negative ones about their favored candidate's opponent.

NYPIRG research co-ordinator Bill Mahoney explains that the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United Case gave independent groups more freedom to spend money on elections.

Under disclosure rules, donors to PACs are able to remain anonymous for months, and forever if a PAC creates what is known as an affiliated nonprofit 501-c-4 organization.

PACs and SuperPACs are behind the deluge of political ads that appeared during the weeks leading up to election day.

Alex Camarda, director of Public Policy and advocacy at Citizens Union, is troubled that voters do not know much about PACs and SuperPacs. Camarda would like to see PACs and SuperPACs regulated. Bill Mahoney believes PACS will be around for some time to come.

Senator Kruger is a strong supporter of public financing: she describes the whole pattern of where big money has gone in our democracy as "enormously dangerous" - Kruger says she strongly supports and practices full disclosure and transparency - for PACS like hers and for the 501-c-4 groups currently exempt from declaring or disclosing anything.

Observers note PACS and SuperPACs will continue to play an important role in National, state and local elections.