There’s a new player in the political cash-gobbling game: THOMPAC. Yes, the FEC received a filing formalizing the creation of a leadership PAC called Together Holding Our Majority (T.H.O.M) Political Action Committee. (Turn to page two of the document and you will see the confirmation that this IS indeed a leadership PAC.)
What is a leadership PAC? Here is the take from OpenSecrets, a government transparency group:
A leadership PAC is a political action committee that can be established by current and former members of Congress as well as other prominent political figures. Leadership PACs are designed for two things: to make money and to make friends. In the rough and tumble political game, elected officials know that money and friends in high places are very important to winning elections and leadership positions.
Leadership PACs provide a way for candidates to fund their travel, office expenses, consultants, polling and other non-campaign expenses. Leadership PACs are also used to fund other candidates’ campaigns, usually new candidates or threatened incumbents. Politicians often use their PACs to donate to other candidates because they are considering seeking a leadership position in Congress, a higher office, or leverage within their own party as they show off their fund-raising ability.
Both Democrats and Republicans operate these PACs. Under FEC rules, leadership PACs are non-connected, meaning that they can accept money from other PACs, businesses and individuals. These PACs are considered separate from a politician’s campaign committee, providing donors with a way around individual campaign contribution limits. Individuals can contribute up to $5,000 per year to a member’s leadership PAC, even if they have already donated the maximum to that member’s campaign committee. Leadership PACs can contribute up to $5,000 per election to their sponsor’s campaign committee, so there are both direct and indirect benefits to a politician who has a leadership PAC. More than half of the funds for PACs now come, not fromindividuals, but from other PACs.[…]
National Journal describes leadership PACs as “an extra pocket to collect special-interest contributions and curry favor among colleagues.” Peter Schweitzer elaborated on leadership PACs and other sordid practices in his fantastic 2014 book “Extortion.” :
[…] To support his thesis, he leads the reader through a stunning array of activities that do, indeed, make one cringe, at least upon a quick reading. For instance, he claims that congressional leaders engage in a practice of setting up “tollbooths”, where they will not allow votes on crucial legislation until after corporate representatives make significant donations to their campaigns or political action committees. Elsewhere he notes practices like congressional or White House staffers entering the private sector to earn very high salaries advising businesses on how to comply with the laws and regulations they helped write. Perhaps the tawdriest practice that Schweizer exposes is the use of funds from leadership PACs, which are theoretically supposed finance campaigns of fellow party members, to cover trips—for instance, to sporting events—and for other high-flying expenses that are well beyond the reach of the average American. […]
(HERE is some of our earlier reporting on Kay Hagan’s leadership PAC.)
These PACs host receptions and dangle invitations to all kinds of lobbyists. Special interests are sent a not-so-subtle hint: If you want the politician in question to even give you the time of day, you need to seriously consider dumping some cash in the campaign AND this PAC. (Still holding your nose? I hope so. Because the stink is STILL there.)