Starting Your Own PAC: A Beginner’s Guide

Starting a political action committee (PAC) can be a powerful way to influence public policy, support candidates who align with your values, and engage in the political process. However, setting up and running a PAC can be daunting, especially if you are new to the world of politics. 

Below, you’ll learn practical tips for creating your own political action committee so you can decide for yourself if this is the best way for you to support your beliefs and mission.

What’s a PAC?

A political action committee is an organization that collects and distributes funds to support or oppose political candidates, legislation, or ballot initiatives. PACs are subject to federal and state regulations governing their operations, contributions, and expenditures. 

After forming a political action committee, you’ll be responsible for precisely tracking every dollar you receive as a donation as well as every expense you take on. Additionally, you’ll have to adhere to donation limitations, which vary depending on the type of PAC you form. 

Types of PACs

There are several different types of political action committees. Here are the three most common.

Connected PACs

A connected PAC is established by a labor union, trade group, health organization, or other business entity. It is literally connected to some organization — hence the name. Connected PACs can solicit contributions only from employees or members. 

However, contributions cannot be tied to membership or dues. For instance, a union cannot lump political contributions in with standard membership dues. Instead, it must solicit voluntary donations from members and cannot make membership contingent upon providing funds for political endeavors. 

Non-Connected PACs

A non-connected PAC operates independently of any parent organization and can solicit funds from the general public. This will most likely be the type of PAC you form unless you are in a leadership role within a union or other large entity. 

Super PACs 

Super PACs can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money. This has been a point of contention and hot debate in recent years. Conversely, other types of political action committees have rather modest per-candidate and per-campaign limits. 

However, there is a caveat. A super PAC cannot coordinate directly with campaigns or candidates. For instance, suppose that you are supporting the incumbent candidate in the U.S. Senate race for your district. You cannot strategize, coordinate, or otherwise directly interact with that person or their team to organize your support, but you can use super PAC funds to run ads on the incumbent’s behalf. 

Can Anyone Start a PAC?

Technically, yes — just about anyone can start a political action committee. However, it’s important to choose the right type of PAC based on your unique circumstances, goals, and beliefs. Additionally, you’ll need access to an abundance of political data to connect with prospective donors, and you’ll also need technology solutions to help you keep track of expenditures and donations.

Starting Your PAC

Getting your political action committee off the ground involves a multi-step process. Specifically, you’ll need to complete the following steps.

Familiarize Yourself With State and Federal Rules

Before you do anything else, take a deep dive into state and federal regulations governing the type of PAC you want to form. Learn the ins and outs of these rules and seek legal advice so you can avoid regulatory penalties and fines. Staying on the right side of these rules is critical to positioning your PAC as a legitimate and trustworthy organization. 

Define Your Mission

Next, articulate the purpose of your PAC. What issues or candidates will you support or oppose? Having a well-defined mission will guide your strategy and attract like-minded donors.

While you may be passionate about multiple political issues and topics, it’s important to be focused on your mission and vision. You’ll gain more traction by focusing on a few critical issues rather than spreading yourself too thin across dozens of different objectives. 

Form a Leadership Team

Assemble a group of dedicated individuals who share your vision. If you followed the previous step to the letter, you should have no problem drawing in like-minded people who are just as passionate as you are. This team will manage the PAC operations, fundraising, and outreach efforts.

While it’s important to structure your committee based on its unique goals, there are a few general roles that you’ll need to fill. Some examples include a treasurer and a compliance officer. As your PAC grows, you might need to bring in additional staff.  

Develop a Fundraising Plan

Fundraising and donating financial resources are the two primary functions of a political action committee. Therefore, you’ll need to identify potential donors and develop strategies to solicit contributions. This could include events, direct mail campaigns, and online fundraising platforms. 

Get creative and think outside of the box. If you aren’t sure where to begin, consider asking your immediate circle for small donations. While receiving large contributions is always welcome, smaller donations from a large group of supporters can quickly add up to significant sums of money. 

Keep Detailed Records

Make sure to carefully track all transactions and donations. You’ll have to present this information to regulatory bodies to document that you are adhering to contribution limits and other laws. 

You can simplify reporting processes by adopting tools like Aristotle’s FEC reporting software. Our platform helps you keep track of contributions and ensure that all forms are filed in a timely manner.

Ready to Start a PAC? Aristotle Can Help

Aristotle provides a wide range of tools and resources for political action committees, including access to millions of voter and consumer files, reporting software, and PAC technology. Schedule a demo to learn more. 

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