Freshmen: PACs First, Oaths Later

Even before she is sworn into office as Hawaii’s newest U.S. senator, Mazie Hirono has set up a leadership political action committee, Pineapple PAC, which allows her to take in donations beyond the contributions to her campaign committee.

Hirono, now a House member, says the PAC “is to help elect Democratic candidates, particularly women and minority candidates, who would represent and reflect the diversity of our country.”

Once the province of senior House and Senate members, such PACs have become as ubiquitous as re-election committees for lawmakers in both houses of Congress, no matter what their positions. They provide lawmakers with money to donate to other federal and state candidates, travel to attend political and party events, and conduct other election-related ac tivities without tapping their own campaign accounts.

Four other current House members moving to the Senate, Democrats Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona — already have set up leadership PACs, and three other senators — Democrats Heidi Heitkamp and Tim Kaine and Republican Ted Cruz — established fundraising committees after Election Day though before they will be sworn into office next month. Nine newly elected House members didn’t even wait until Election Day before registering their PACs.

“This would have been silly even a decade ago,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics. “Freshmen understand that it’s now standard. Money is just swirling. Everyone is trying to ratchet up their fundraising ability, the capacity to bring in money through each and every possible avenue.”


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