Understanding Nonconnected PACs: A Comprehensive Guide

Political action committees (PACs) play a pivotal role in the United States political arena by collecting and distributing funds to influence electoral outcomes. Traditionally, PACs are “connected” to (read: affiliated with) a political party, corporation, or union sponsor, but nonconnected PACs are different, as they operate independently of a union or corporate sponsor.

Below is everything you need to know about nonconnected PACs.

What Are Nonconnected PACs?

Nonconnected PACs are those that operate independently, without direct affiliation to any candidate, political party, or corporate/union sponsor. They are established by individuals, groups, or organizations with a political agenda, aiming to support or oppose candidates, political parties, or ballot initiatives based on shared interests or ideologies. 

Unlike connected PACs, which are tied to specific entities, nonconnected PACs rely on donations from the general public, members, or other PACs to fund their activities, and they are regulated by the Federal Election Commission (FEC). 

What Are SSFs?

Separated segregated funds (SSFs) are political committees established and run by trade associations, membership organizations, labor unions, or corporations. They can only solicit contributions from entities connected with the sponsoring organization, and they are required to keep these funds separate from others. 

For instance, suppose that you are a member of a union that forms an SSF. In order to contribute to the fund, you must be a dues-paying member, but even then, the PAC cannot combine those dues or other collections with SSF money. Furthermore, the PAC cannot make contributing to the SSF a mandatory prerequisite for membership. 

The same premise applies to SSFs created by corporations, trade associations, or membership organizations; only affiliate parties can donate, and donations cannot be made mandatory. 

Distinguishing Nonconnected PACs From Separated Segregated Funds

SSFs and nonconnected PACs are two types of entities that share some similarities — they are both designed to raise money and support specific candidates or causes, for instance — but there are some key distinctions between them. 

You can distinguish a nonconnected PAC from an SSF by considering the following attributes:

A Connected Organization (or Lack Thereof)

Every SSF is established, administered, and (must be) run by an overseeing entity, such as a corporation, union, or sponsoring organization. A nonconnected committee, on the other hand, is not created by a corporation or labor organization.

That said, a nonconnected committee can receive limited administrative support and financial contributions from a sponsor so long as that entity is not a corporation or labor organization itself; for instance, an unincorporated association, small business, or partnership could create and subsequently support a nonconnected committee. 

Limited Sponsorship 

Perhaps the biggest difference between an SSF and a nonconnected committee lies in their sponsorship limits: An SSF can receive unlimited administrative support from the sponsoring organization, and in some instances, that support is not subject to FEC disclosure requirements. 

Conversely, nonconnected PACs must document any and all support, money, or service of value they receive from sponsoring entities. As such, these contributions are subject to the federal government’s annual limits and disclosure rules; typically, any one entity cannot provide a nonconnected PAC with more than $5,000 per year

Open Solicitations 

All funds collected by nonconnected PACs are subject to the FEC’s $5,000 per donor per year limits, but the good news is that a nonconnected committee enjoys unrestricted solicitations, meaning it can ask anyone from the general public to make contributions. There are a few limited exceptions, but the vast majority of U.S. citizens and businesses can contribute to a nonconnected PAC. 

SSFs, in contrast, can only solicit donations from a limited group of individuals, such as members, employees, or stockholders; that said, the SSF’s sponsoring organization can provide nearly unlimited support, which offsets the solicitation limitations.

Benefits of Nonconnected PACs

Nonconnected PACs enable grassroots movements, small businesses, and local leaders to play roles in state and national elections, and since you do not need a sponsoring organization to form a nonconnected PAC, it is much easier to form one of these types of committees. Additionally, you can leverage donations from a huge base of contributors, which maximizes your fund-generating capabilities. 

Another major benefit of nonconnected PACs involves transparency: As a nonconnected committee manager, you’ll be subject to all of the FEC’s key reporting requirements, and while keeping up with some of these regulations can be a bit tedious, you can use them to your advantage and establish your committee as a transparent, honest group that is committed to improving the electoral process.

Lastly, given that a nonconnected PAC is not beholden to any niche special interest group or organization, you’ll have more latitude to sponsor the bills and candidates that align with your committee’s mission; that said, it is vital that you have a clear objective when forming a nonconnected committee. 

Powering Your Nonconnected PAC Fundraising Efforts

The biggest hurdle to forming a nonconnected PAC is fundraising; while you have the freedom to solicit donations from virtually anyone, you need to determine who to target and how to reach them, and in order to do that, you’ll need accurate political data.

At Aristotle, we provide high-quality political data records to PACs, political campaigns, grassroots organizations, and a variety of other entities. As an Aristotle client, you’ll enjoy access to hundreds of millions of voter and consumer files, which you can leverage to grow your committee and generate funding. Book a demo of Aristotle today to learn more about our data services.

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