Risky Business? Pac Decisionmaking in Congressional Elections

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

that had previously shown an inclination to support challengers and open-seat candidates did not dramatically alter their more recent pattern of contributions to incumbents. Among our case studies, only those PACs with issue agendas prominent in the 1992 elections--abortion and health care--changed their behavior to any great degree.

We conclude that despite the tremendous diversity in PAC histories, goals, organizational structures, informational resources, and decisionmaking processes, most PACs gave most of their money to incumbents during an election cycle in which there were many highly promising challenger and open-seat candidates running for Congress. The fact that most committees spent their funds in a way that was designed to maintain access to important decisionmakers, rather than replace them, suggests that most PACs are involved in electoral politics to advance lobbying goals instead of to influence the outcomes of elections.

There is tremendous diversity in the PAC community and among the committees in this study. This diversity is only partially reflected in contribution behavior, however. In an election in which the public professed to pollsters a desire to change the composition of Congress, and in which term-limit referenda passed in many states, the PAC community provided incumbents with additional financial advantages that limited the competitiveness of congressional elections. The proincumbent bias of most PACs reflects their access-oriented goals, the kinds of information available to most committees when they make their decisions, the nature of their decisionmaking processes, and the structure of congressional elections. These factors encourage most PACs to be supporters of the status quo, even in elections in which the majority of Americans want change.


Notes
1.
Gary Jacobson and Samuel Kemell, Strategy and Choice in Congressional Elections, 2nd ed. ( New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1983); Gary Jacobson, Money in Congressional Elections ( New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1980); Theodore Eismeier and Phillip Pollock III, "Strategy and Choice in Congressional Elections: The Role of Political Action Committees," American Journal of Political Science 30 ( 1986): 197-213.
2.
Eismeier and Pollack, "Strategy and Choice"; Clyde Wilcox, "Organizational Variables and the Contribution Behavior of Large PACs: A Longitudinal Analysis," Political Behavior 11 ( 1989): 157-73.
3.
Eismeier and Pollack, "Strategy and Choice"; Diana Evans, "Oil PACs and Aggressive Contribution Strategies," Journal of Politics 50 ( 1988): 1047-56.
4.
Brooks Jackson, Honest Graft ( New York: Random House, 1988); Theodore Eismeier and Phillip Pollock III, Business, Money, and the Rise of Corporate PACs in American Elections ( New York: Quorum Books, 1988).
5.
For a discussion of innovation and stability in bureaucratic organizations, see J. M. Dutton and R. D. Freeman, "External Environment and Internal Strategies: Calculating, Experimenting and Imitating in Organizations," in R. B. Lamb, ed., Advances in Strategic Management ( Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 1985).

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