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Legislative affairs Newsletter


Supervisor Political Action Committee (SPAC)

What Is a PAC?

Political Action Committee (PAC) — A popular term for a political committee organized for the purpose of raising and spending money to elect and defeat candidates. Most PACs represent business, labor or ideological interests. PACs can give $5,000 to a candidate committee per election (primary, general or special). They can also give up to $15,000 annually to any national party committee, and $5,000 annually to any other PAC. PACs may receive up to $5,000 from any one individual, PAC or party committee per calendar year. A PAC must register with the FEC within 10 days of its formation, providing name and address for the PAC, its treasurer and any connected organizations. Affiliated PACs are treated as one donor for the purpose of contribution limits.

PACs have been around since 1944, when the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) formed the first one to raise money for the re-election of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The PAC's money came from voluntary contributions from union members rather than union treasuries, so it did not violate the Smith Connally Act of 1943, which forbade unions from contributing to federal candidates. Although commonly called PACs, federal election law refers to these accounts as "separate segregated funds" because money contributed to a PAC is kept in a bank account separate from the general corporate or union treasury.

Many politicians also form Leadership PACs, which are not technically affiliated with the candidate, as a way of raising money to help fund other candidates' campaigns. Leadership PACs are often indicative of a politician's aspirations for leadership positions in Congress or for higher office. (A breakdown of spending by Leadership PACs is available on this web site.) Further background on Leadership PACs is online in the Center's 1996 publication, "A Bag of Tricks."

For more information on PACs, check out the FEC's "Campaign Guide for Corporations and Labor Organizations" and the "Campaign Guide for Nonconnected Committees" (both available in PDF format). For an alphabetical list of PAC acronyms, abbreviations, initials, and common names, see the FEC's list of PACRONYMS. A chart showing the rise and fall in the number of PACs over the years is also available on the FEC's web site.

NAPS initiated a fund that could be used to contribute to the campaigns of individuals who support issues and bills in the House and Senate that relate to the USPS. The SPAC funds are used to attend fund-raisers for candidates and, in some cases, are contributed directly to the candidates campaign funds. In today's political climate, postal supervisors need support on Capitol Hill regarding laws that change retirement systems, rules that govern how we compete against UPS, FEDEX, etc. Our support of politicians who determine the votes on bills is important so we can keep what we have and improve our lot in life. Recently, there was a bill before Congress to reduce the percentage of our retirement contribution that was raised by .05 in the late 1980's. This bill received wide support throughout congress. Those individuals, who received NAPS support, were more likely to support this bill when it went through the legislative process. NAPS releases contributions in several ways. At NAPS Headquarters they receive requests on a daily basis for contributions. NAPS is a member of the "FAIR" coalition. This is a group that represents all government employees. The FAIR group recommends those members in the House and Senate that favor the issues of government employees. We give political donations based on this group's recommendation. SPAC also gives to campaigns based on local branch requests. In fact, large portions of our contributions support the requests of local branches. There are people who are against PAC (political action committees) funds, but until there is campaign reform, this is the system we have to work in.