What is a PAC?

A political action committee (PAC) is a type of political committee organized to spend money for the election or defeat of a candidate. The PAC was created in 1944 by the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). The CIO used their PAC to contribute money to pro-union candidates for office and to get around the Smith-Connally Act, which banned direct union contributions to candidates. Business groups began to create PACs in the 1960s and 1970s to counter the strength of the union PACs. In the 1980s Members of Congress began creating Leadership PACs to distribute money to members of their party with the intent of gaining clout within the party. By 1994 at least 38 Members of Congress had Leadership PACs. Today, there are hundreds of Members with Leadership PACs.

PACs are required to file with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) within 10 days of opening. Campaign Finance restrictions state that PACs can give $5,000 to a candidate committee per election (primary, general or special); 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.

Although most political action committees would be considered either conservative or liberal — Republican or Democrat — many, like CincyPAC, are non-partisan, favoring neither political party, and focus on issues rather than party affiliation.