The American Horse Council has formed a political action committee. It plans to make election campaign contributions to congressional candidates, "simply because it's absolutely necessary for trade associations who are trying to get a point of view across to support people who support them."
That's the view of R. Richard Rolapp, executive vice president of the organization, whose 120 groups and 1,100 individuals have special-interest tax problems and other legislative interests on Capitol Hill.
The National League of Postmasters is also establishing a PAC. In March of this year the campaign committee of Rep. Charles H. Wilson (D-Calif.), chairman of the House subcommittee on postal personnel, reported a $500 contribution from the National League of Postmasters Imprest Fund.
In a letter to Wilson's campaign treasurer filed with the Federal Election Commission, Eugene B. Dalton, president of the postmaster group, said "the contribution was derived from the National League operating funds account and specifically from the account designed for political contributions."
It is illegal for organizations to use their own funds for contributions. A spokeswoman for Dalton said the league in the past had made "voluntary" contributions to members of the House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service since "we deal with them on legislation," but she did not know for one to Wilson.
The new PAC, she said, would contribute money taken in from members and retired postmasters also on a voluntary basis.
PACs today are the fastest-growing element in political financing. As of July 1, there were 1,709 of them, covering corporate, labor, trade, health and other organizations. Three years ago, there were fewer than 600.
According to one expert in the field, more than 100 new ones have been organized within the last six months and even more are expected, particularly in the corporate area.
Political action committees were years ago almost exclusively associated in the public mind with labor unions and such liberal, New York-based organizations as the National Committee for an Effective Congress. They were soon emulated, however, by professional interest groups. The American Medical Association's PAC financed candidates opposed to Medicare when its creation was being heavily lobbied by organized labor.
Because these were the only groups filing public reports under the old Federal Corrupt Practices Act, they were the only ones written and talked about. Post-Watergate disclosures of illegal contributions to the 1972 elections showed, however, that corporations were also actively giving political money then.
In the 18 months from Jan. 1, 1977, to July 1, 1978, PAC's had collected $54 million and contributed $11 million to congressional candidates, according to Federal Election Commission data.
Though growing in importance PACs provide less than one-third of most candidates' funds; the bulk still comes from individual donors. Nonetheless, PACs have become increasingly controversial.
Democratic congressional leaders voice fears that corporation-generated money will soon dominate elections.
GOP Chairman William Brock recently charged that corporate PACs, by giving most of their money to Democratic incumbents, will freeze that party into congressional dominance.
Common Cause, the citizens lobbying organization, has generated a drumbeat of publicity saying special-interest PACs dominate the legislative process.
But PACs continue to grow. In the last few months, for example, PACs have been registered at the election commission for Allied Chemical Corp., Bell Telephone Co. of Pennsylvania, Connecticut Education Association, Fireman's Fund Insurance Cos., Fur, Leather & Machine Workers Union, Hill & Knowlton Inc. (a Washington-based public relations firm), Hughes Helicopters, the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, Tenneco Inc., and even Howard Jarvis' American Tax Reduction Movement.
Two elements associated with 1975-'76 changes in campaign fund law have facilitated the growth of PACs.
Individuals are now limited to giving $1,000 in a federal election. The limitation has made candidates look around for PACs as new sources of income. (See accompanying box.)
Just as important, however, are the tighter public reporting requirements of the law. With every PAC filing its receipts and expenditures, companies and groups brought previously unreported, informal campaign fund operations out in the open. That movement encouraged even more companies and groups to take part in the campaign fund process.
Bethlehem Steel, for example, for years had what one executive called its "double envelope" system. Executive made out checks to candidates and sent them in envelopes bearing the recipients' names to a special company office. The checks were put together and delivered to the candidates, usually by a Bethlehem Washington lobbyist in the case of congressional candidates.
Because there was no formal organization, no reports were ever filed for this Bethlehem fund-raising. It wasn't discovered until a candidate's donors of $100 or more were listed and by examination they all turned out to be employed by Bethlehem.
In June, however, Bethlehem formed its own public PAC and began collecting money. According to Eugene Kline, a Bethlehem vice president and chairman of its new PAC, the company "wants to give our own employees a convenient means of participating in the elective process . . . a way they collectively can register their voice."
Another new impetus for PACs are consultants who for a fee help recipient committees or companies and other groups to organize. Both the Democratic and Republican campaign committees have fund-raisers who specialize in PAC operations.
The National Republican Congressional Committee pays a consultant firm, Cogman & Associates of Oklahoma City, a regular fee to [WORD ILLEGIBLE] organize PACs and "see they give us our share of money," a committee aide says.
Don Cogman, a former aide to Sen. Dewey Bartlett (R-Okln.), said he acts "as a catalyst" with companies, "showing them what the law allows." He cited Cooper Industries Inc., a Houston-based company, as one that recently organized a PAC through his activity.
Typical of new corporate PACs is one that began this year under the auspices of Time Inc. and a subsidiary, Temple Eastex Inc., of Dibol, Tex.
Arthur Temple, head of Temple Eastex, was the moving force and is chairman of the fund-raising group.
Solicitations were sent to top Time executives, though Barry Zorthian, Time's Washington representative, said recently he did not think editorial people were on the list. He added that Time magazine's editorial staff was unaware of the fund-raising operation "until they did the lobbying cover" - a major story on the growth in Washington of special-interest activities.
Among the top givers to the PAC at $5,000 apiece are Andrew Heiskell, Time's board chairman; Arthur Larson, its vice chairman, and James Shepley, president and publisher of another subsidiary, The Washington Star.
Since January, when it began disbursing contributions, the Time/Eastex PAC has given to more than 20 senators and House members.
Its first and largest check to date, $2,000, went to House majority leader James Wright of Texas. Three contributions went to member of the House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service: $500 to Rep. James M. Hanley (D-N.Y.), chairman of the subcommittee on Postal Operations and Services; $500 to Rep. Wilson, whose subcommittee deals with postal personnel and modernization; and $200 to Rep. Morris Udal (D-Ariz.), vice chairman of the parent committee.
Zorthian said his office in Washington makes suggestions and they are reviewed in New York and forwarded to the fund officers in Texas.
"We normally support people in the postal area where we have an interest," he said of the Udall, Wilson and Hanley donations.
In that approach, the Time PAC is no different from any other.
The American Magazine Publishers Association has a PAC that receives contributions from executives of magazines, including a few from News week, a Washington Post subsidiary. That PAC also gave $500 to Hanley and Wilson.
The postal unions have PACs and not surprisingly, they too focus their contributions on House members who deal with postal affairs.
Not all PACs, however, are giving solely to incumbents. As a Kemper Insurance Co, employe involved with his company's PAC put it recently:
"We think it's a good investment of our money to give to . . . guys who aren't incumbents. You can make a difference, and they'll remember it . . . $200, he'll notice that, but it's a drop in the bucket for us."