Risky Business? Pac Decisionmaking in Congressional Elections

By Robert Biersack; Paul S. Herrnson et al. | Go to book overview
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The NATCA political action committee is highly centralized in its operations. All activity and decisionmaking revolve around John Thornton. Given the growth rate of this young PAC, changes do not seem either likely or necessary. Thus, the NATCA PAC presents an interesting and useful model for studying political action committee behavior.


PHH PAC and NATCA PAC, two very small committees, reveal a pattern of informality in decisionmaking, structure, and information sources. Of the two, the PHH PAC has a formal decisionmaking committee, but even that operates flexibly. For both PACs, payroll deductions have proved to be the most efficient method of fundraising. Both PACs communicate with their members about PAC activities, and both emphasize internal congressional influence when making contribution decisions. PHH and NATCA have both had successful operations, measured in terms of their stated electoral and legislative objectives, and each remains an active and viable organization.

Federal Election Commission, "PAC Activity Rebounds in 1991-1992 Election Cycle--Unusual Nature of Contest Seen as Reason," Press release, April 23, 1993.
The definition of "small" when referring to a political action committee in this chapter is based on the amount of disbursements in a calendar year. For the two PACs profiled in this chapter, each had disbursements of less than $10,000 in calendar year 1990.
Most of the information in this section was provided by a series of personal interviews with Samuel H. Wright. Wright is vice president and general counsel for the PHH Group, Inc., and head of the PHH political action committee.
This situation changed after the 1992 election. As a result of a regular review of the PAC's activities, PHH decided in the summer of 1993 to hire a part-time employee with a PAC background to increase the company's internal grassroots activity. Among other things, this employee will be making trips to the larger PHH installations to generate enthusiasm for the PAC through presentations.
Wright explained that the Mortgage Bankers' Association currently has an internal political split between small and large member mortgage companies. The association is currently dominated by small companies, while the industry is controlled by large companies. With PHH aligned with the latter group, the MorPAC research may sometimes lack usefulness.
Wright also meets occasionally with other PAC directors. However, the company's membership in BIPAC (Business-Industry Political Action Committee) was recently ended for financial reasons.
In 1992 the company sent out requests for standard campaign information to every candidate in the House and the Senate in whose district or state the company had an office. Wright estimated the response rated at approximately 50 percent, a figure he


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Risky Business? Pac Decisionmaking in Congressional Elections
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