Who Are Americans? Interactive Exercises

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Who Is Represented by PACs?

Following recent Supreme Court decisions that ended many restrictions on campaign spending and issue advocacy, the number of “nonconnected,” or ideological, PACs has increased dramatically, making this the largest PAC category in terms of the number of groups. These groups are not connected to a specific corporation, labor organization, or membership association, and they work to elect candidates who support their ideals or agenda. However, in terms of contributions to candidates, spending by ideological groups is dwarfed by the combined contributions of PACs from various business sectors.

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1.
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How much money did labor give to federal candidates in 2010? How much was given by ideological groups?
2.
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Into what categories are corporate donors divided? Which corporate sectors were the top two givers to federal candidates in 2010?
3.
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Choose one of the corporate sectors and give examples of two companies you think might belong in that sector.

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4. How many trade/membership/health PACs were registered in 2011-12?
5. Which sector(s) had the most registered PACs in 2011-12?
6. The Center for Responsive Politics is a nonpartisan research group tracking money in U.S. politics. Their database OpenSecrets lists the top 50 federally focused 527 groups at http://www.opensecrets.org/527s/527cmtes.php?level=C&cycle=2012. What is a 527 group? In 2012, what were four of the top 527 groups? To what candidates do you think these groups gave?
7. If business PACs are the most numerous and the biggest spenders, what effect might their dominance have on which candidates get elected and what policies they pass?
8.
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The chart at the top shows PACs’ contributions to candidates. What are some other ways—aside from direct contributions—that PACs can influence the outcome of elections?

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