|Pam Melton is the NCCUL Director of Political Affairs. She can be reached at 919-457-9067.
We’re only a few days away from our May 8 Primary Election date. It seems that big election years usher in creative or progressive campaigning ideas used by candidates to reach voters and raise money. In 2008, we witnessed the use of social media as an effective outreach tool for the presidential election.
Social media is now widely used by candidates in many types of races. This year’s new tool is the Super PAC. What exactly is a Super PAC and how does it differ from a PAC? First, let’s look at the definition of a PAC.
According to the Wikipedia definition, a political action committee (PAC) is any organization in the United States that campaigns for or against political candidates, ballot initiatives or legislation. PACs are regulated and follow state and or federal guidelines, depending on how they are registered.
Most companies, associations, candidates, special interest groups, etc., have PACs. These PACs have contribution, donor and filing guidelines, if these guidelines are not followed, they are subject to fines or depending on the severity, can lead to imprisonment.
This brings us back to the original question, how do Super PACs differ from regular PACs? “When I think of a Super PAC, I think of a PAC on steroids,” said Pam Melton NCCUL Director of Political Affairs. “We’ve seen the use of Super PACs in the presidential race and in hotly contested NC federal races. Unlike “traditional” PACs, these PACs are allowed to accept unlimited contributions….that’s a tremendous difference!”
Super PACs, also known as “independent-expenditure” only committees, are PACs that don’t make contributions to candidates, parties or other PACs and can legally accept unlimited contributions from individuals, unions, and corporations in order to make independent expenditures. These PACs are not allowed to coordinate their message or intent with candidates or political parties.
“We already see two huge differences that Super PAC have,” explained Melton. “I don’t think it can be stressed enough, these PACs can receive unlimited funds. In addition, money can be raised not only from individuals but from corporations, both for-profit and non-profit. These are significant differences, especially when you think about the potential influence one industry or even one person can have in support or opposition of a candidate or issue.”
“For an example of state and federal campaign disclosure oversight at work, we don’t have to look very far. North Carolina has seen several cases in recent years of campaign violations. Whether we agree or disagree with how any of these trials were handled, I think we can all agree that laws were broken and too many privileges were taken. What’s key is the abuses in all cases were illegal because of established campaign finance rules.”
Will Super PACs become too “super” and give those individuals or corporations with unlimited resources too much influence? Will the 2010 court decision making these PACs legal need to be revisited? The biggest question for us is will credit unions ever experience a Super PAC being used to promote or defeat legislation that can help or harm our industry? I guess only time will tell so let’s stay tuned!
Please watch next week for a special election wrap-up on the new League website. The League will continue to feature articles throughout this election season that provide insight or education into the election process. If you have a suggestion for an article or would like more information on a political process, tool or anything election related, please don’t hesitate to contact Pam Melton of the League at 919-457-9067.