PACs and Parties

This chapter first appeared in Money, Elections, and Democracy: Reforming Congressional Campaign Finance, edited by Margaret Lotus Nugent and John R. Johannes (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1990), pp. 187–204. In “PACs and Parties,” Sabato, a professor of political science at the University of Virginia and the author of several books on the American political process, considers the relationship between political action committees and political parties, especially since the passage of the campaign finance legislation of the 1970s.

Sabato finds that PACs are not nearly as pernicious as journalists would make them out to be. Special interest money has always found its way into the political arena, Sabato notes; the growth of PACs since the legislation of the 1970s is its current manifestation and makes special interest money more visible than it was before reporting requirements were instituted. Sabato also finds that PACs as well as parties have a legitimate and important role in the political process.

He would, however, prefer to strengthen parties rather than PACs and to this end suggests less restrictive limits on contributions of individuals and PACs to political parties.