All About PACs

To run a campaign, candidates need money, and with the small exception of publicly financed campaigns, a sizeable portion of this money comes from political action committees (PACs).  By providing for a campaign’s war chest, PACs play a massive role in determining how candidates are elected, and in turn, which kinds of policies are enacted.

Overview

The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) established the first PAC in 1943 after Congress prohibited unions from directly contributing to political candidates.  Corporations were initially barred from directly contributing to PACs under the Tillman Act of 1907, and the Smith-Connally Act extended this law to include unions in 1943.  Later, a series of campaign laws including the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) of 1971 allowed corporations and trade associations to form PACs.  The FECA also notably established the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which enforces PAC laws.

Businesses, organizations, and other entities form PACs as a way to pool resources together to support the candidates they like, and indirectly, oppose candidates they don’t like.  Overall, a PAC’s purpose is to raise money in support of a candidate, to get them elected, and to help defeat candidates they oppose.  Additionally, PACs aren’t limited to candidates for elected office – such as with state ballot measures.   

Types of PACs

There are five types of PACs:

  1. Separate Segregated Funds (SSF).  These are political committees established by labor unions, corporations, membership organizations, or trade associations.  They can only solicit contributions from an individual connected with the sponsoring organization, such as an employee or an association member. 
  2. Nonconnected committees. These entities are not established or sponsored by any particular organization, and unlike separate segregated funds, they can target the general public for solicitation. 
  3. Super PACs.  Created in 2010 after the US Supreme Court rulings for Citizens United v. FEC and SpeechNOW v. FEC , super PACs cannot make contributions to candidates or parties.  However, these PACs do make independent expenditures in federal campaigns, such as running advertisements or sending mail that either supports or opposes a candidate.  Unlike other PACs, there are no limits or restrictions on the sources of funds that can be used for expenditures.  Super PACs are still bound by the rules of other PACs in that they must file regular reports with the FEC.
  4. Hybrid PACs.  Similar to super PACs, hybrid PACs can spend unlimited funds on activities outside a campaign.  What sets hybrid PACs apart, however, is their ability to contribute funds directly to a political party, campaign, or candidate, similar to SSFs and nonconnected committees.
  5. Leadership PACs.  These are committees established by candidates or individuals currently holding federal office.  Both Representatives and Senators can establish leadership PACs to support candidates within their political party.

PAC Rules

PACs must follow numerous rules set out by the FECA and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.  For instance, a PAC has 10 days to register with the FEC after its formation.  The FEC also requires politicians and candidates who create a leadership PAC to be listed when submitting the required documentation.  Furthermore, current laws require PACs to meticulously keep records on how they spend their money, which includes salaries, advertisements, supplies, rent, day-to-day expenses, dinners, and more.

The following chart provides an overview of the limitations on how much different types of PACs can spend and receive.

SSFsNonconnected PACsLeadership
PACs
Hybrid PACsSuper PACs
Limits on
contributions

Can contribute no more than:

$5,000 to a
candidate or
candidate
committee for each election
 
$15,000 to a
political party per year, and
 
$5,000 to
another PAC
per year

Can contribute no more than:

$5,000 to a
candidate or
candidate
committee for each election
 
$15,000 to a
political party per year, and
 
$5,000 to
another PAC
per year

Can contribute no more than:

$5,000 to a
candidate or
candidate
committee for each election
 
$15,000 to a
political party per year, and
 
$5,000 to
another PAC
per year


Can contribute no more than:
 
$5,000 to a
candidate or
candidate
committee for each election,
 
$15,000 to a
political party per year, and
 
$5,000 to
another PAC
per year, but
can spend
unlimited
amounts of
money on
non-candidate or campaign-
related
political
activities




Cannot directly contribute to
candidate or
party but can
spend
unlimited
amounts of
money on
non-candidate or campaign-
related
political activities
Limits on
donations
from
individuals
Can accept up to $5,000 per
year
Can accept up to $5,000 per
year
Can accept up to $5,000 per
year
Can accept up to $5,000 per
year
No cap on
donations

PACs and Advocacy

By influencing elections, PACs indirectly play a pivotal role in lobbying and advocacy.  Different businesses, industries, and interests have PACs, and they work to get candidates elected who support those issues or host fundraisers for other candidates in the hopes of attracting them to their cause.  In turn, once those candidates are elected, advocates can target public officials who are more likely to be favorable to their cause.  Thus, by helping to get friendlier candidates elected to public office, PACs show they can play a massive role in moving organizations’ advocacy objectives forward.

Lay of the Land for 2022 Gubernatorial Races

The 2022 midterms aren’t just about Congress.  36 states will be holding gubernatorial elections, and the consequences will not just determine state-level policies but also inform future political players on the federal level for presidential races..  At the moment, 27 states have Republican governors, while 23 have Democratic governors.

Nearly 40 state governorships are up for grabs over the next two years, and the winners of these races will have a broad impact on not just state-level policies but also the potential to reshape rising political stars on the national stage.  This blog post looks at all the upcoming gubernatorial races for 2021-2022 and provides insight on the likely outcome.

The 2021 Races

One indicator of the 2022 midterms will be three gubernatorial races scheduled in fall 2021.  Both New Jersey and Virginia have held their gubernatorial elections off-year to avoid being overshadowed by federal elections, while California’s election is part of a recall effort.

  • In New Jersey, incumbent Democratic Governor Phil Murphy is seeking a second term.  He will face Republican nominee and current State Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli. The state gubernatorial election will take place on November 2, 2021.
  • In Virginia, former Governor Terry McAuliffe is seeking a second term in a November 2, 2021, where he will face off against Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin.  Unlike other state governors, Virginia governors are not allowed to serve consecutive terms, which is why the current Democratic Governor Ralph Northam is not seeking reelection.
  • In California, incumbent Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom faces a recall election on September 14, 2021.  46 candidates have been deemed qualified to appear on the ballot, including 9 Democrats and 23 Republicans. 

However, the 2021 gubernatorial races are unlikely to serve as a bellwether for the 2022 midterms.  All three states are solidly Democratic, with Democrats currently serving as governor, attorney general, and secretary of state.  Additionally, the state legislatures of Virginia, New Jersey, and California all have Democratic majorities.

The 2022 Outlook

Of the 36 states in the mix for 2022, 20 governorships are held by Republicans, while 18 are held by Democrats.  Below is a chart of all states with 2022 gubernatorial elections, their likely outcome according to the Cook Political Report, and a comparison with 2020 presidential election results.

StateIncumbentPartyProjection2020 Presidential Margin
AlabamaKay IveyRSolid RTrump (+25.5)
AlaskaMike DunleavyRSolid RTrump (+10.1)
ArizonaDoug Ducey*RToss-upBiden (+0.3)
ArkansasAsa Hutchinson*DSolid RTrump (+27.6)
CaliforniaGavin Newsom†DLikely DBiden (+29.5)
ColoradoJared PolisDSolid DBiden (+13.5)
ConnecticutNed LamontDSolid DBiden (+20)
FloridaRon DeSantisRLean RTrump (+3.4)
GeorgiaBrian KempRLean RBiden (+0.2)
HawaiiDavid Ige*DSolid DBiden (+29.5)
IdahoBrad LittleRSolid RTrump (+30.7)
IllinoisJ.B. PritzkerDSolid DBiden (+16.9)
IowaKim ReynoldsRLikely RTrump (+8.2)
KansasLaura KellyDToss-upTrump (+14.6)
MaineJanet MillsDLikely DBiden (+9.1)
MarylandLarry Hogan*RLean DBiden (+33.2)
MassachusettsCharlie BakerRSolid RBiden (+33.5)
MichiganGretchen WitmerDLean DBiden (+2.4)
MinnesotaTim WalzDLikely DBiden (+7.1)
NebraskaPete Ricketts*RSolid RTrump (+19.1)
NevadaSteve SisolakDLikely DBiden (+2.4)
New HampshireChris SununuRLikely RBiden (+7.4)
New MexicoMichelle Lujan GrishamDSolid DBiden (+10.8)
New YorkAndrew CuomoDSolid DBiden (+23.1)
OhioMike DeWineRLikely RTrump (+8)
OklahomaKevin StittRSolid R Trump (+33.1)
OregonKate BrownDLikely DBiden (+16.1)
PennsylvaniaTom Wolf*DToss-upBiden (+1.2)
Rhode IslandDaniel McKeeDSolid DBiden (+23.1)
South CarolinaHenry McMasterRSolid RTrump (+11.7)
South DakotaKristi NoemRSolid RTrump (+26.2)
TennesseeBill LeeRSolid RTrump (+23.2)
TexasGreg AbbottRLikely RTrump (+5.8)
VermontPhil ScottRSolid RBiden (+35.4)
WisconsinTony EversDLean DBiden (+0.6)
WyomingMark GordonRSolid RTrump (+43.3)

*Not eligible for reelection due to term limits

†Dependent on results of 2021 recall election

Democrats face an uphill battle in the 2022 gubernatorial races.  In 16 of the 19 midterm elections held since World War II, the party of the president lost bids for governorship.  However, 2022 is unlikely to see a lot of turnovers in the governors’ mansions due to the fact that all but six races feature incumbents, who generally face an advantage in retaining their seats.  Nonetheless, conditions could change for all gubernatorial candidates, depending on the popularity of President Joe Biden, the state of the economy, public health, and countless other measures.