Political Action Committees in MA Report Contributions of $2.6 million to State and County Candidates in 2011-12

The 2011-12 state election cycle saw typical political action committee activity in Massachusetts, even with the addition of independent expenditure PACs, according to a study published by OCPF that examines campaign finance activity by PACs.

PACs reported making $2,637,514 in direct contributions to state and county candidates in 2011-12, a period that did not include an election for statewide candidates. The record is $2,744,437, set in 2009-10, a statewide election cycle.

The number of PACs registered with OCPF has hovered at just over 300 in recent years. At the end of 2012, 305 PACs were organized with OCPF, including traditional PACs, people’s committees and independent expenditure PACs.

OCPF has published PAC studies biannually since 1982, but this is the first study to include independent expenditure PACs, a political committee designation created in 2010 as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission decision. IEPACs are commonly known as “super PACs” at the federal level.

An independent expenditure is an expenditure made to expressly advocate for the election or defeat of a candidate, without coordinating with any candidate’s committee. An IEPAC can only make independent expenditures and does not make direct contributions to candidates.

Compared to other PACs, IEPACs reported little activity.

The Stand for Children IEPAC reported $124,733 in expenditures. Of that total, the IEPAC reported spending $119,293 to support Democrats. The Massachusetts Values PAC reported $118,673 in expenditures. Of that total, $85,919 was spent to oppose Republicans.

Three other IEPACs were organized with OCPF but did not disclose expenditures to support or oppose candidates.

Traditionally, most PACs and people’s committees raise money to make direct contributions to candidates.

In 2012, a state election year, 455 state and county candidates received at least one PAC contribution (from traditional PACs or people’s committees). The average total amount of PAC contributions made to a state or county candidate in 2012 was $3,266.

The state’s eight people’s committees reported a total of $271,010 in contributions. People’s committees are similar to PACs, but can only accept contributions of $156 a year from individuals. A contribution from a people’s committee to a candidate does not count against a candidate’s aggregate PAC limit. The annual limit is $500 for PACs and there is no limit for IEPACs.

In total, all PACs reported $6.7 million in expenditures for the 2011-12 election cycle, short of the $6.9 million record set in 2009-10. The expenditure total is higher than the contribution total because PACs also spend money on such things as administrative and fundraising costs, and independent expenditures supporting or opposing candidates.The PAC study is available on the “OCPF Publications” page at the agency website (www.ocpf.us). 

The Office of Campaign and Political Finance is an independent state agency that administers Massachusetts General Law Chapter 55, the campaign finance law. Established in 1973, OCPF is the depository for disclosure reports filed by candidates and committees.