What are political action committees?

Gun Rights

With Joe Biden and Donald Trump campaigning for the November 5 presidential election, fundraising efforts have been a focus in U.S. politics.

After Trump was convicted last month by a New York jury on charges related to the 2016 election, fundraising for the former president skyrocketed. The Trump campaign said it raised $53 million in the 24 hours following the verdict.

Money raised from individuals and the political parties’ fundraising committees aren’t the only way candidates can receive support. Political action committees also figure into the fundraising plans.

PACs are a type of political committee that is neither the direct party committee nor a committee directly authorized by the candidate — they exist outside those bounds. PACs can be supported or administered by a corporation or labor organization, or they can exist freely without a corporate-based or labor-based sponsor.

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Some PACs face stricter limitations on soliciting funds and can contribute directly to the candidate and the committees directly authorized by the candidates. Other PACs, which have greater freedom in fundraising, cannot contribute directly to a candidate. These PACs can raise funds to attempt to influence an election without contributing directly to the candidate or their authorized committee.

PACs can raise money to support or oppose a candidate.

Here is a breakdown of PAC activity for the 2024 election, according to recent data by the Federal Election Commission, or FEC.

For both candidates, the largest PACs are raising funds in opposition to the campaigns they support. Make America Great Again Inc., a PAC designed to secure Trump a second term, has been Biden’s greatest adversary, donating $16 million to oppose the current president’s reelection campaign.

Since January 1, 2023, out of the top 10 PACs listed by donation to support or oppose Biden, six are raising money against him.

The PAC with the largest financial record about the Trump campaign also opposes him. The Americans for Prosperity Action Inc. is a grassroots organization that raised $10 million in opposition to the Trump campaign.

For the top 10 PACs raising money in association with the Trump campaign since January 1, 2023, eight are working to oppose him.

As shown with the top PAC donations, both candidates have seen significant funds raised against them. Roughly $30 million has been raised against each of the main candidates since January 2023, according to the data.

In that same time, PACs supporting Biden have raised almost $6 million. PACs supporting Trump have raised $11 million. Make American Great Again has donated almost $10 million, making their support the second-largest PAC contribution to the Trump campaign.

In the past week, PAC support has continued, mostly for advertising purposes, including media production and placement and text messaging. On May 30, Biden received a notable donation in support of BlackPAC of $500,000 for media.

Recently, Trump received a series of smaller donations in support, including a donation of about $3,200 by the National Rifle Association on May 31.

Both sides have also seen recent contributions against their campaigns. On May 28, Make America Great Again Inc. donated more than $12,000 against Biden. On May 31, the Republican Accountability PAC spent $1,500 in opposition of Trump. The greatest recent opposition funds have been directed toward advertising and text messaging.

Yet these numbers don’t fully capture recent PAC activity. Raw data, which can take weeks to be processed by the FEC, indicates that PACs have continued to contribute funds in support of and opposition to the candidates. Party committee fundraising totals have also not been confirmed, as the FEC has not processed all the filings.

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