A political action committee (PAC) is a political committee registered with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for the purpose of raising money to elect or defeat a political candidate. Each PAC can represent a particular ideological, business or labor interest. While there are several different types of PACs, each with its own unique structure, the purpose of all of them is to support or defeat an issue or candidate.

Nonconnected PAC

The nonconnected PAC must pay for its own administrative expenses out of the money it raises. The most unique feature of nonconnected PACs is that they are financially independent. They are not connected to other organizations and, therefore, are allowed to raise money from the general public. The other major type of PAC, an SSF PAC, is only allowed to solicit contributions from certain groups of individuals, such as members of a specific organization.

Separate Segregated Funds

Separate Segregated Funds (SSFs) are PACs that work with large organizations to promote political interests. Organizations that might set up an SSF PAC include labor unions, businesses and trade associations. One advantage of an SSF is that it has lower reporting requirements with the FEC. While a nonconnected PAC must report all of its operating expenses, SSFs do not have to report any administrative or fundraising expenses paid by its sponsoring organizations.

FEC Registration

The FEC has similar basic requirements for both SSFs and nonconnected PACs. Regardless of the type, all PACs must file reports with the FEC on a monthly or quarterly basis, disclosing information about their receipts and disbursements. Depending on the activity of each PAC, the FEC may require additional post-election reports. A nonconnected PAC is required to register with the FEC once it spends or raises $1,000 for federal elections. It has 10 days to register after reaching this threshold. SSFs have to register within 10 days of committee formation, even if no money has been raised.

Super PAC

A new type of PAC has emerged in recent years that does not make any financial contributions to a particular candidate or political party. Established legally after a 2010 U.S. Court of Appeals decision, the Super PAC is allowed to indirectly support candidates in federal races by purchasing advertising messages independent of the official campaign. Super PACs must register with the FEC and file regular financial reports just like other PACs.