Political Action Committees
The funding of lobbying efforts has become more complex in recent years. Reforms in campaign finance laws in the 1970s set limits 011 direct contributions to political candidates and led to the creation of political action committees (PACs)-organizations of special interest groups that solicit contributions from donors and fund campaigns to help elect (or defeat) candidates based on their stances on specific issues.
As the cost of running for political office has skyrocketed, candidates have relied floret on PACs for financial assistance. Contributed more than $316,800,000to candidates for the u.s. House and Senate between January 1,2005,and October 18,2006(the most recent period for which data are Available),representing 28 percent of all contributions received (Federal Election Commission 2006). Advertising, staff, direct-mail operations, telephone banks, computers, consultants, travel expenses, office rentals, and other expenses incurred in political campaigns make PAC money vital to candidates. Some PACs represent the "public interest" and ideological interest groups such as gay rights or the National Rille Association. Other PACs represent the capitalistic interests of large corporations. Realistically, members of the least- privileged sectors of society are not represented by PACs. As one senator pointed out, "There aren't any Poor PACs or Food Stamp PACs or Nutrition PACs or Medicare PACs" in Green berg and Page, 1993: 240). Critics of pluralism argue that "Big Business" wields such disproportionate power in U.S. politics that it undermines the democratic process (see Lindblom, 1977; Domhoff, 1978). As an outgrowth of record-setting campaign spending in the 1996 national election . campaign financing abuses were alleged by both Republicans and Democrats in Washington. At the center of the controversy was the issue of "soft money" contributions, which are made outside the limits imposed by federal election laws. In 2002, Congress passed the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, prohibiting soft money contributions in federal elections, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the soft money provisions of that law in 2003. However, the McCain-Feingold law applies only to federal elections and does not bar soft money contributions in slate and local elections.