Risky Business? Pac Decisionmaking in Congressional Elections

By Robert Biersack; Paul S. Herrnson et al. | Go to book overview

Royce, running to succeed William Dannemeyer in California's 39th district, as an example of a candidate BIPAC supported but had not expected to have to support. 18 While some candidates who asked BIPAC for support expected, as challengers, to have tough races, it was the candidates who thought they had safe districts, and suddenly found out they did not, that seemed the most desperate in their requests for support.

In 1992, 30 of the 109 candidates BIPAC supported were incumbents (see Table A.2). While this is not as high a proportion as Budde had predicted a year earlier, BIPAC supported more incumbents and gave more money to them in 1992 than it did in 1990. In Senate races, BIPAC gave more money to both incumbents and open-seat candidates in 1992 than it did in 1990, but less money to challengers. In contests for the House, incumbents and challengers received more money from BIPAC in 1992 than in 1990, while open-seat candidates received less. Clearly the need to support incumbents reduced the amount of money available for nonincumbents.

In the end, BIPAC was able to support all the candidates it wanted in 1992, but its contributions at the end of the cycle were smaller than they were in other election cycles. During the last two weeks BIPAC was making contributions of $500 to candidates but would have made contributions of $1,000, and in some cases more, if there had been more money available. 19

While all candidates BIPAC supported were equally important to the committee, it had three separate goals in 1992. One was to change the composition of the committee most important to the business community, namely, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. To that end, BIPAC opposed Democratic Congressman Mike Synar of Oklahoma in both the primary and the runoff, opposed Democratic incumbent Gerry Sikorsky in the primary and supported his opponent, Rod Grams, in the general election; and opposed Democratic incumbent Peter Kostmayer. Synar was reelected, but both Sikorsky and Kostmayer were defeated. A second goal was to make an impact in the California delegation, thus the support for Republicans Richard Pombo and Edward Royce, both of whom won. Finally, BIPAC wanted to continue to support Jim Ross Lightfoot (R) in Iowa, because it had supported him for a long time. Lightfoot also won. 20


Conclusions

Despite the concerns over the fate of incumbents expressed early in the 1992 election cycle, BIPAC continued its tradition of giving a majority of its support to nonincumbents. Because of its history of support for nonincumbents, BIPAC was ideally situated to identify qualified challengers and open-seat candidates; thus its role as a lead PAC became even more important in a year in which anti-incumbency and change were the dominant themes.

BIPAC was successful in just over 50 percent of the races in which it was

-37-

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