Risky Business? Pac Decisionmaking in Congressional Elections

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

bers to support the Clinton-Gore ticket. It conducted extensive grassroots mobilization and voter education programs among its members. The national office sent out almost 16,000 campaign kits to local NEA affiliates, which included a videotape of Bill Clinton addressing the July 1992 Representative Assembly. A six-person "rapid response" team in the NEA's national office answered questions from field staff and set up a toll-free telephone number to provide daily updates on the campaign. Jerry Carruthers, an NEA government-relations specialist, was based in the Clinton campaign headquarters in Little Rock as a representative of NEA. Every targeted state was provided with an NEA staffer who helped persuade NEA members to vote for the Clinton-Gore ticket. 16

The NEA was delighted with the victory of Bill Clinton and Al Gore. NEA-PAC was also rather successful with its congressional endorsements: 73 percent of House candidates it endorsed won, as did 60 percent of its Senate candidates. The PAC's success rate for House incumbents was 92 percent (177 incumbents reelected). Out of 51 House challenger races, only 5 endorsed challengers won--a success rate of only 10 percent. In House open seats, 50 endorsed candidates won, yielding a 68 percent success rate. In the Senate, 81 percent of NEA-PAC--endorsed incumbents won, while the success rates of NEA-PAC-endorsed challengers and open-seat-- endorsed candidates amounted to 25 percent and 67 percent, respectively.

In addition to the presidential and congressional elections, state NEA-PAC affiliates were active in gubernatorial and state ballot measures. Eleven gubernatorial candidates were endorsed, including one Republican, as were eight candidates for open seats. Of these, eight won. State affiliates were active in sixteen state ballot initiatives, including defending choice on abortion, civil rights for gays and lesbians, campaign finance reform, term limits, and caps on sales and property taxes. State affiliates were successful in six of these ballot measures.

Overall, the NEA-PAC was very satisfied with the 1992 election results. Joe Standa says that the only surprise to NEA was that they "expected a lot more incumbents to lose because of redistricting and the pay raise issue."17


Conclusion

The National Education Association is a politically active organization that represents the average educator--not the stereotypical "special interest." Contrary to common views about PACs, the NEA-PAC takes risks. NEA-PAC's risk-taking behavior is strongly related to the type of organization it represents and its longevity as a PAC. Pre-FECA PACs, like the NEA-PAC, have generally been better able to maintain a "viable mix of legislative and electoral strategies" because they draw on "shared [long-term] goals" and a preexisting commitment to encouraging voter participation. 18

The NEA-PAC endorsements are issue-driven and depend upon the particular incumbents and challengers as well as the number of open seats in any one

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