How do the five categories of connected PACs differ from one another?

Corporate and labor committees were the first PACs, and for most of the last forty years they were what came to mind when people thought about PACs. Corporate committees make up more than half of all connected PACs, labor committees only about 10 percent.

Trade, membership, and health committees make up a little less than one-third of connected PACs. The biggest trade PACs include associations of beer wholesalers, cable television companies, real estate developers, construction companies, and banks. The biggest health industry PACs include associations of hospitals, anesthesiologists, dermatologists, and surgeons. Most of these PACs can be included with corporations as representing business interests.

Membership PACs are a more diverse bunch. Some sponsors in this category, such as the National Federation of Independent Business and the National Restaurant Association, are also part of the business community. A few, like PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young, two of the world's biggest auditing firms, are themselves active business enterprises. Their PACs are listed under the membership category because they are partnerships, not corporations. The membership category also includes professional associations that are more loosely connected to business interests, such as the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors. This category also includes the kind of voluntary associations—such as the National Rifle Association and the League of Conservation Voters—that first come to mind when we think of membership groups. Their PACs are connected because they are incorporated nonprofits and are treated under the law as corporations.

PACs sponsored by cooperatives and corporations without stock make up only about 5 percent of connected PACs. Most of these PACs are small, raising less than $50,000 in an election cycle; the few that raise more than that tend to be mutual insurance companies.

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