Political action committees-- PACs--are villains in contemporary electoral politics, at least from the public's perspective. They get blamed for much of what is wrong with the system: the incumbency advantage in elections, the weakening of political parties, and the pernicious effect of money on the cost and conduct of elections and on the public policy decisions of those who have been elected.
With regularity and often righteous indignation, public interest groups, journalists, and even politicians, who have been the recipients of their largess, have bemoaned PACs' evil influence and urged reforms that include limiting or eliminating their campaign contributions. There have even been proposals to ban them altogether, proposals of dubious constitutionality.
Are these accusations justified? Do PACs exercise an undue and unhealthy influence? Under the guise of a democratic electoral process, do they contribute to undemocratic election results and to unrepresentative government, government of, by, and for the few? Should PACs be constrained? Should they be prohibited altogether?
We need data to answer these questions. In Risky Business? PAC Decisionmaking in Congressional Elections, Robert Biersack, Paul S. Hermson, Clyde Wilcox , and the other contributors provide that data in a set of fascinating case studies, based in part on personal interviews with PAC decisionmakers, that examine PAC decisionmaking and activities during the 1992 election cycle.
The authors are interested in understanding how PACs work, how they choose those whom they are going to support. Obviously the type of PAC, the structure of its organization, the involvement of its membership, the method by which it obtains information about the candidates, their positions, and their chances, and the extent to which it exploits particular electoral opportunities are all factors that potentially affect a PAC's decisions about whom to support and how much to give.
The PACs studied in this book are diverse. They include public and private groups, communities with broad and with narrow memberships, ones with eco-