Americans are worried about political campaign contributions by both business and labor political action committees. By almost 2 to 1, they would favor reducing the amount that organized business, labor and consumer groups could give to a federal campaign from the current $5,000 limit to $2,500.
Under the present law, individuals are limited to a maximum $1,000 contribution to a presidential, Senate or congressional campaign. However, a business, labor or consumer group is allowed to give as much as $5,000 to any federal campaign. It is evident that the public feels the present disparity between organized and individual giving should be cut in half . Such a bill is now coming up in Congress and is likely to be voted on during this session.
Basically, Americans harbor rather deep suspicions about organized giving in politics. In amost every case in which the latest Harris Survey asked a national cross section of 1,563 adults about different types of political contributors, organized groups came up negatiely:
By 65 to 21 percent, a majority feels that political contributions by big companies is a "bad influence on politics and government." Of course, corporations as such cannot give money to candidates on the national scene. However, when asked about "company political action funds contributed by certain employes and stockholders," a 47-to-32 percent plurality feels these also are a bad influence. It is evident that most Americans are very wary of any kind of corporate-related contributions to political campaigns.
However, by 58-to-26 percent , a sizable majority also believes that political contributions by labor unions have a "bad influence on politics and government." In the case of labor union political funds contributed by members of unions, a 46-to-36 percent plurality feels such contributions also have a bad influence.
There was one example of organized giving that was favorably regarded by the public:
By 55-to-26 percent, a majority feels that political contributions made by consumer action groups have a "good in fluence on politics and government."
The present gap between organized group giving and individual giving its felt to be "not justified" by a relatively close 44-to-38 percent plurality.
And when people were asked directly about specific organizations, the set of public opinion was clear:
By 50-to-27 percent, Americans favor reducing the maximum contribution of corporate political action committees from $5,000 to $2,500.
By an identical 50-to-27 percent the public supports the same reduction for labor union political action committees.
By 48-to-28 percent , it also favors limiting the contributions of consumerist political action groups to $2,500.
The latest Harris Survey also made clear just what kind of contributions people feel are healthy for the system:
By 79-to10 percent, a sizable majority feels that money donated by "small dividual contributors" has a good influence on the system.
By 54-to-30 percent, a majority also sees a positive effect from contributions from "rich people who sincerely believe in a candidate and what he stands for." Whatever their feelings towards wealthy people, obviously most Americans would rather that well-heeled individuals give money to political campaigns than that organized business contributors do so.