Money talks. That's the conclusion of a survey of 50 political action committee (PAC) directors and lobbyists who said they get little attention from members of Congress unless they make campaign contributions. The interviews with the PAC officials were conducted by the Center for Responsive Politics, a research organization that advocates changing campaign-finance laws.
One PAC director told of seeing a "little black book" in which a member of Congress kept the names of contributors and referred to it when a lobbyist wanted to meet with him. He said members of Congress have told him, "Well, I like your organization, but you haven't given me a contribution."
The group said the PAC officials agreed to talk on condition their names would not be used. Among the PACs represented were some of the largest, including the $5 million-per-election American Medical Association PAC, and smaller PACs that give less than $50,000 in total contributions.
The report said the PAC officials admitted they contributed to members of Congress to ensure access. They also acknowledged that they contribute overwhelmingly to incumbents during a campaign, and if the incumbent loses they help the winner to retire a debt, establishing influence with the new legislator.
"PACs said they felt they were manipulated by members of Congress, who constantly apply pressure for money," the report said. "The PACs we talked to said they felt unrelenting pressure to attend fund-raisers, that they were unfairly being held responsible for skyrocketing campaign costs and that the public held them in low repute."