So what are the rules around PACs and labor unions?
February 1, 2014 7:42 PM   Subscribe

What are the rules that govern disclosure and contributions to Political Action Committees? Are there any disclosure rules related to labor unions transferring funds from their own budget into a separate PAC that they control (fees, disclosure, etc)?

I understand that basically the whole point of PACs is to reduce transparency in campaign contributions, and that this is magnified by Citizens United. But I don't understand the specifics:

*what rules exist?

*what rules do not exist?

*where can one review the rules that govern PACs?

*what little disclosure is there and where can I find that information?

* what fees and transaction costs are there related to moving funds over to a PAC?

* if a union has moved money from their own budget to a PAC, is there any way to know?

Also, if anyone is concerned, my specific question about rules related to labor unions has nothing to do with political vendetta or any effort against unions. My specific need for this info serves neither a pro-union nor an anti-union purpose.
posted by kensington314 to Law & Government (5 answers total)
This is a very complicated question. In my experience, the rules for disclosure varies by state. Each state has a board of elections where donations by and to PACs are disclosed, but in different states different things are disclosed or not on their websites. Might want to start there.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:07 PM on February 1, 2014

Basically, PACs are section 527 organizations. After the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, PACs may solicit and spend unlimited amounts of money on elections. However, by federal law, 527s must disclose the donors to their organizations for the purpose of political transparency. There are ways around this rule, for example, a 527 can delay up to three months reporting their donors, which may be after the election has already occurred. Donors may also obscure their identity by using shell LLCs to launder the donation. But eventually, all PAC donations must be disclosed.

On the other hand are the 501(c)4 organizations that were part of the IRS and Tea Party brouhaha. A 501(c)4 is supposed to be a social welfare group whose primary purpose is not electioneering. Further a 501(c)4 is not required to disclose the identity of its donors. This is what makes them so attractive to corporations and billionaires that wish to conceal their political activities and why the IRS is tasked with rooting out fake 501(c)4 organizations that are really just illegal political PACs.

If you want to do politics, you can do that freely in a 527 PAC, but you are required to disclose all donors. If you want to keep your donations private, you can contribute to a 501(c)4, but in that case, you must limit the political activities of the organization. The problem comes when people attempt to maintain the anonymous character of a 501(c)4 but perform the political activities of a 527 without the required disclosure.
posted by JackFlash at 10:18 PM on February 1, 2014

It's my understanding that union dues cannot be transferred into PACS, but that unions can ask members if they want to donate to PACS, separately.
posted by vitabellosi at 3:04 AM on February 2, 2014

Here's a Wikipedia article about it.

Long story short - unions can use money from their budgets to administer a PAC but cannot fund the PAC. That is, unions can use union dues to pay a percentage of staff time to fill out the paperwork associated with the PAC, to take the time to ask union members to donate to the PAC, but not to actually fund the PAC.
posted by vitabellosi at 3:12 AM on February 2, 2014

All the PAC limits are still in effect and were unimpacted by Citizens United. PACs have searchable filings at the FEC site. Union members earmark a part of their paycheck to PAC contributions.

Best bets for detail on rules is wikipedia and the FEC site.
posted by jpe at 4:05 AM on February 2, 2014

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