Report: Nearly Half of PACs Have Changed Their Candidate Criteria

07 Dec, 2021

December 7, 2021

Contact: Alaina Monismith
Senior Manager of Communications and
Media Relations
Public Affairs Council

Report: Nearly Half of PACs Have Changed Their Candidate Criteria
Benchmarking reports show most corporate and association PACs consider
character, ethics of lawmakers

Washington – The 2021 Corporate and Association PAC Benchmarking Reports find that more than 80% of corporate PACs paused contributions to federal candidates in the wake of the Jan. 6 events. Despite taking a pause, PACs continue to be an important avenue for employees to engage in the political process, and many report an increase in members.

Published every two years by the Public Affairs Council, the reports are the most comprehensive and widely used source for information on trends in PAC management, budgets, structure, fundraising and political involvement.  The new editions provide an in-depth look at corporate and association PAC activities, insights for PAC managers to improve their programs and examples of the important role PACs play in the political process.

“Corporate political involvement has been in the spotlight in 2021,” said Kristin Brackemyre, director of PAC and government relations for the Council.  “PACs have worked to be responsive to their members and stakeholders. The findings from our new reports reflect the thoughtful approach PAC managers are taking as they prioritize criteria such as character, ethics, reputation and alignment with key values.”

Noteworthy findings emerged from the 2021 surveys, including:

  • Responding to COVID-19. Nearly half of respondents paused all solicitations due to the impact of COVID-19. The average length of the pause was nine months.
  • Pausing post January 6. More than 80% of corporate PACs paused contributions to federal candidates in the wake of Jan. 6. Additionally, 47% initiated a re-evaluation of candidate contribution criteria that led to changes in criteria.
  • Contribution criteria formalized. Nearly 90% of responding PACs have formal candidate contribution criteria that govern PAC disbursements to federal candidates, with 63% considering character, ethics and reputation and 18% considering a candidate’s position on social issues.
  • PACs continue to grow. More than half of responding corporate PACs report their number of members has increased or stayed the same since January 6.
  • Little support for Super PACs. Only 5% of corporate survey participants said their company contributed to a Super PAC in the 2019-2020 election cycle. More than 60% said their company’s PAC has never contributed.

“The findings reaffirm that PACs play an important role in the political process,” said Public Affairs Council President Doug Pinkham. “Whether it’s by showing support for like-minded lawmakers or providing an avenue for employees to have a voice, PACs remain a popular and transparent way to finance elections.”

To learn more or purchase the reports, click here.

The Council sent survey questionnaires to members and nonmembers in the PAC community from May through July 2021. Responses cover federal PAC activities and receipts in the 2019-2020 election cycle. A total of 127 usable corporate responses and 72 usable association responses were received.

About the Public Affairs Council
Both nonpartisan and nonpolitical, the Public Affairs Council is the leading association for public affairs professionals worldwide. The Council’s mission is to advance the field of public affairs and to provide its 700 member companies, associations and other nonprofits with the executive education and expertise they need to succeed while maintaining the highest ethical standards.