Risky Business? Pac Decisionmaking in Congressional Elections

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

tight open-seat races to $7,500 or $10,000? Why did the realtors, in large part, behave as if 1992 were just another election, like 1990 or 1988?

The explanation probably centers on the decisionmaking structure of the state and local Realtors. These realtors are aware, calculating, economic and political activists; they are the kind of people one would expect to take advantage of strategic opportunities because they so often create them in their professional activities. Yet their structure for making contribution decisions is formalized. The state and local PACs are given the task of evaluating opposing candidates for each House and Senate seat. This means that there will probably be a contribution request made for each House and Senate seat. The norms set the average contribution request at between $3,000 and $5,000 per election.

The candidate-evaluation rules emphasize using roll-call scores on a narrow range of policies affecting housing. 15 Since 1988 requests for dual contributions have been discouraged by requiring that two-thirds of the trustees approve these state recommendations. In a race involving an unacceptable incumbent, the challenger is given funding only if he or she is both pro-realtor and running a competitive campaign. The switching of support from an acceptable incumbent to a challenger is not encouraged. As a result, in many districts incumbents acceptable on a narrow range of issues have routinely received $3,000 to $5,000 per election in the past. These incumbents expected, and were given, contributions of a similar size in 1992. When all these rules and circumstances are combined, they greatly constrain the range of choices for state and local realtors. The result seems to be that people who are strategic actors become straitjacketed in a highly formalized decision structure. 16

NAR and RPAC officials and the trustees committee worked at the margins of the decision structure to take advantage of 1992 opportunities. They continued funding for independent expenditures at previous levels; they increased NAR money for an expanded Opportunity Race Program; and they managed the PAC treasury to ensure that all money would be available for use by November 1992.

It is plausible to suggest that there was a conflict in 1992 between the realtors and their rules. The rules seem to have won. In late 1993, however, the PAC decided to change the rules. PAC officials announced that they would stop contributing to party committees and to the PACs of congressional party leaders, and would slash $1 million from their independent expenditure program. Instead, the Realtors has instituted new programs of local fundraising by realtors for candidates, bundling of contributions by individual realtors, recruiting of campaign volunteers, and increased use of soft money.


Notes
1.
A decade ago face-to-face fundraising was the primary method used by all fifty- four state associations. Now that seventeen states use dues checkoff as the principal fundraising technique, RPAC may have less need to respect the candidate recommendations of local activists in those states. See John Wright, "PACs, Contributions, and RollCalls: An Organizational Perspective,"

-114-

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