Risky Business? Pac Decisionmaking in Congressional Elections

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

reaction to the savings and loan crisis, and the House banking scandal created a frenzy among the incumbent candidates as their efforts to raise campaign funds intensified. Capitol Hill analysts expected the 1992 political environment to have an impact on the way individuals and political institutions like PACs made election choices. However, although 1992 did bring change to Capitol Hill, it had little effect on the decisionmaking process of the AAP-PAC. The PAC's decisions regarding its money were made, as usual, by its executive committee. Although the peculiarities of this election year may have caused the executive committee to discuss the candidates more thoroughly, there were no conflicts among the decisionmakers regarding recipients. Candidates were more tenacious than ever in their bids to receive financing, but the PAC's constituents, the publishers, did not increase their contributions. Moreover, the publishers were not more involved in the decisionmaking process-- the PAC received no requests from its constituents for more information about its activities. The only difference that the 1992 election year made to the AAP-PAC financing decisions is that the PAC broke with tradition and gave more money than usual to some of its most important candidates if those candidates were particularly threatened in their election bids. The PAC funded the same number of candidates as in the past with the same number of total dollars, but in some instances individuals received a little more money than in past years, making the pie smaller for other candidates. The money was distributed throughout the year as it came into the PAC office; because the PAC works with limited funds, there was nothing reserved for the end of the election cycle.

Once again, nearly all of the PAC's contributions went to incumbents. Because more House incumbents were involved in close races in 1992, the PAC increased its share of contributions going to House Democratic incumbents from 40 percent to 52 percent. Senate Democratic incumbents, in contrast, received a smaller share of total PAC contributions than in 1990.

In general, the election results were viewed favorably by the AAP-PAC. However, the PAC does anticipate some problems in the areas of copyright, computer technology, and the recycling issues as the new administration develops its own perspective on the tension between government involvement and private-sector initiative. After an election, the PAC always introduces itself to the new members of Congress by using the informal social circuit. Courtesy calls are one method of informal introduction, and the AAP holds parties of introduction for new senators and representatives as well as "old friends." The AAP will hold educational seminars to discuss difficult or technological aspects of legislative proposals with the new members. In addition, the AAP hosts a "Freedom to Read" party for all members. The party is an informal opportunity to encourage continued sensitivity to First Amendment issues.


Conclusion

The 1992 election brought more than 100 new members of Congress to Washington, D.C., but as the AAP-PAC looks to the future it sees few changes in store

-168-

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