The PACs discussed in this section share a number of characteristics--all have fairly substantial financial resources to invest in congressional elections, relatively stable organizational structures, several staff members who devote time to PAC activities, and a set of established rules and procedures for making contribution decisions. These characteristics provide them with the resources to react to political change, but also constrain them in their ability to adapt quickly.
Stable organizational structures and multi-member staffs allow these PACs to gather information from a variety of sources. Several of these PACs, including the Realtors, NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League), and the NEA (National Education Association), are federated structures that gather information from state and local members. Many also consult with party committees, subscribe to newsletters, and otherwise seek out data from a variety of sources. In some cases, their size and prominence allow them to obtain specific information about candidates directly, either through questionnaires or through contacts initiated by the candidates themselves. The sizable budgets of these committees allow them to contribute to a large number of candidates and to perhaps invest some "venture capital" in promising nonincumbents.
The bureaucratic decisionmaking of these committees, however, may limit their flexibility. Many have regularly scheduled meetings of their boards, where contribution decisions are made. If the PAC board is scheduled to meet in June of the election year, the PAC may miss important opportunities that develop as the volatile election cycle progresses. If the PAC has a rigid set of criteria for contributions that favors incumbents, then it may be less able to respond to a large number of qualified nonincumbent candidates, as was the case in 1992.
Although these PACs share a number of characteristics, they also differ in important ways. The Realtors' PAC and ATT contribute to candidates in nearly all House and Senate elections, and the Realtors also reserve additional