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Political action committees

Higgins, Michael (2009) Political action committees. In: Encyclopedia of Journalism. Sage, California, pp. 1081-1083. ISBN 0761929574

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Abstract

The Political Action Committee (known by the conventional acronym of PAC) is a privately-organised group dedicated to shaping and influencing political policy and law making. PACs operate to generate, distribute and spend campaign funding. While they are required to register with state regulators, PACs are normally conceived as a way of pursuing particular issues outside of or parallel with the formal political framework. In the way they set about this, PACs are permitted to advocate the election of a candidate to a federal election, or to subject opposition candidates to attack. It all means that the sets of alliances and monetary arrangements that develop between PACs and the political establishment are important factors to consider when reporting on and critically assessing the US democratic arrangement: a political system that aspires to the fair distribution of political arguments. More broadly, an informed understanding of the role of PACs and the restrictions they face provides the journalist and the academic alike with an insight into the links between finance and political power.