Risky Business? Pac Decisionmaking in Congressional Elections

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

candidates of the party to which the incumbent did not belong; nine of them lost. The PAC gave more money to challengers than to incumbents in only six races, and two of those incumbents lost. Only 9 percent of the PAC's contributions went to successful challengers. In nearly all of these races, the PAC's contribution decisions can be seen as a way to balance conflicting loyalties: it gave to friends on both sides, but gave more to those most likely to win. Here again, there is a sharp contrast with the PAC's behavior in 1980. In that year, the PAC gave 95 percent of its contributions to Republicans and 46.6 percent to winners. It gave to both incumbent and challenger in six of twenty-two races, but gave more to the incumbent in only three: two of those three incumbents were Republicans who defeated Democratic opponents. The only winning Democratic challenger to receive PAC gifts defeated an incumbent of his own party in a primary and ran unopposed in the general election. The PAC's support for challengers in 1980 was both more partisan and more serious than in 1992.


After the Election

Freshmen may find that one of the few familiar faces in Washington is that of the AT&T lobbyist--perhaps the same person with whom the new members had dealt in the state legislature. Those freshmen may draw on the lobbyist's Washington experience when trying to find their way around Congress. Donald Goff, AT&T's director for federal government affairs, said that freshmen had asked him, "'How does this place work? How does it compare to the statehouse, where we were?'" 32 in large states where federal and state lobbying are handled by different people, state lobbyists "hand off" candidates to their federal counterparts after the PAC decides to support them. Not every new member won the PAC's backing, and some reached Congress by defeating candidates the PAC did support; in the House, AT&T lobbyists have access even to them.

AT&T provides telephone service to the House, which gives the company's lobbyists "a wonderful opportunity to either succeed or fail." 33 The chancy character of that opportunity was especially evident after the 1992 election, when the high turnover meant that the company had to install telephones, intercoms, and faxes not only for new members but also for senior members moving into more desirable quarters. Since this equipment has AT&T's logo on it, the company's credibility is intimately linked to the 435 members' daily activities. Company lobbyists can use this link to introduce themselves to representatives they don't know simply by calling to say, "As you go through this, here's my number in case anything goes wrong." The risk that something can go wrong is balanced by the opportunity to begin a relationship with a member on grounds other than PAC or policy concerns.


Conclusion

Those of us who expected AT&T PAC to act differently in 1992 underestimated the extent to which it had developed stable ties to state and congressional office-

-89-

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