Risky Business? Pac Decisionmaking in Congressional Elections

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

11 A New Political Pragmatism? The National Right to Life PAC

Roland Gunn

The National Right to Life PAC (NRLPAC) is the seventeenth largest ideological PAC and the largest of all the pro-life PACs. It accounted for 75 percent of the $722,353 spent by pro-life PACs during the 1989-90 election cycle. NRLPAC's expenditures have historically favored Republicans and incumbents. In its membership recruitment materials, however, politicians from both parties are featured.

When the ruling in Roe v. Wade was issued on January 22, 1973, abortion became a major national issue. 1 There was a rapid response by opponents of this decision. Within a week, Representative Lawrence J. Hogan (R-MD) had introduced a right-to-life amendment in the House. Opponents of Roe were not unified as to the best way to reverse its impact. This led to open conflict in their ranks. The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) was founded in 1973 as a part of an effort "to resolve the movement's incessant internecine battles." 2 It quickly became a leading and highly visible group with the pro-life movement.

Prior to 1980, there was no direct NRLC activity in electoral politics. There were, however, "close informal connections" between the NRLC and the Life Amendment Political Action Committee. 3 The formation of the NRLPAC in 1980 coincided with the closer alignment of the NRLC with the new right; but ironically, the single-issue focus of the NRLC prevented it from being taken over by the new right. 4 The formation at the PAC was also in line with the redefinition of the NRLC's goals:

The NRLC meanwhile is increasingly articulating its goals in political terms. In its 1978 annual convention, it announced it would step up its campaign for a

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