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Q&A on an AFP political action committee

One of the most important issues that AFP's Government Relations Committee and External Relations Division has been considering is the creation of an AFP Political Action Committee (PAC). Some preliminary discussions were held at last year's Delegate Assembly, and from that event, AFP has assembled a list of common questions that members have about PACs.

What is a PAC?

A PAC is a vehicle through which associations and other types of nonprofits can support federal candidates who agree with their positions on critical issues. Through a PAC, an association can contribute funds to the campaign committees of federal candidates. Without a PAC, associations are prohibited from contributing money to a federal candidate. Charities - 501(c)(3) organizations - are prohibited from forming a PAC at all.

How does a PAC work?

Members and staff of AFP, and their families, would contribute to the PAC much like they contribute to the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy. An AFP PAC, like the Foundation, would be housed in AFP's International Headquarters, but would be a separate, legal body. Unlike a gift to the Foundation, a contribution to the AFP PAC would be non-deductible. Associations are prohibited from using funds from their general treasury or from member dues to fund a PAC, except for certain administrative and accounting expenditures.

How much money would an AFP PAC need to raise in order to be effective?

Comparatively, very little. While the total amount of money raised and contributed by PACs is high (in the hundreds of millions), most PACs are very small. An AFP PAC would be one of the few PACs (if not the only one) dealing with philanthropic issues. Plus, AFP wouldn't be giving to a lot of candidates, just those that actively support philanthropy by introducing and advocating for pro-philanthropy legislation. AFP estimates that our PAC would need to raise approximately $50,000 for every two-year election cycle.

Who decides which candidates are supported?

The AFP PAC would have a separate board that would decide which candidates would receive contributions. The decisions would be based on the candidates' positions on charitable giving issues and their past actions in support of philanthropy. The PAC would give to candidates regardless of party. From a practical standpoint, AFP would tend to give to Members of Congress who sit on the House Ways and Means or Senate Finance Committees, since these committees have jurisdiction over taxes and charitable organizations. Other candidates who show a particular interest in philanthropy might also be selected.

Speaking of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy, would a PAC affect gifts to the Foundation?

Most associations have found that when they formed a PAC, their foundation giving was not adversely affected. In addition, the amount of funds needed to run an effective PAC (approximately $50,000) is less than one-tenth of what the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy raises in its Annual Fund (who now exceeds $600,000).

Would the recent campaign finance legislation affect an AFP PAC?

No, because the AFP PAC would not give 'soft' money to political party committees. AFP would only give to federal candidates ('hard' money), and that type of giving is mostly unaffected by the legislation.

If you have further questions, please contact the AFP Public Affairs Department at AFP's advocacy efforts are also featured in the upcoming March/April 2002 issue of Advancing Philanthropy.

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