The Ins and Outs of AED's Political Action Committee

Those of us who work inside the Beltway often assume that those in the “real world” understand all the acronyms and terms we throw around. One of those terms is “political action committee,” or “PAC.” With the 2018 midterm elections less than a year away, it’s important for AED members to acquaint themselves with the AED PAC and the benefits a well-funded PAC provides to the industry.

The Fine Print

A political action committee (PAC) is an entity established and administered by a corporation, labor union, membership organization or trade association, to contribute directly to candidate campaign committees. PACs have strict contribution limits and fundraising restrictions. In contrast, a “super PAC” is a committee that may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals; however, it may only make independent expenditures to support or oppose a candidate, meaning it cannot coordinate with any campaign or candidate. AED has a PAC, not a super PAC.

Federal PACs, unlike those at the state and local level, are subject to strict regulations in terms of who can donate and how contributions can be solicited. Federal law prohibits the use of association membership dues to support political candidates. Therefore, AED’s PAC is funded through voluntary contributions from individuals who are U.S. citizens and are executive or administrative personnel of a company that belongs to AED. The association’s senior staff may contribute also. The annual contribution limit to a PAC is $5,000 per person.

According to federal law, the AED PAC can only ask for, and accept donations from, those that have given prior approval in accordance with the requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act. In other words, AED members must give written permission to allow the Association to ask for a contribution (as for first amendment issues with this mandate, I’ll save those for another column or a law review article). Signing prior approval doesn’t obligate the individual to support the PAC, it merely allows the Association to have a more open discussion about its importance. To give the Association prior approval, go to

Who Receives AED PAC Funds?

The AED PAC contributes to federal candidates with a demonstrated commitment to the industry’s policy priorities. Specifically, AED’s PAC supports candidates who back strong federal infrastructure programs; more effective career and technical education programs; and pro-growth tax, energy and regulatory policies. Other factors we consider are a candidate’s voting record, public statements, committee assignments, leadership positions and electability. There is absolutely no quid pro quo. The AED PAC doesn’t contribute based on specific actions or a commitment not to act. Meeting one, none, or all criteria doesn’t guarantee or disqualify PAC support. Most importantly, input from AED members (particularly those that support the AED PAC), are heavily weighed.

The Road Ahead

Elections are expensive, and those candidates who have a demonstrated record of support and engagement with our industry need the resources to get their message out. With the House and Senate both up for grabs next year, there’s a great deal at stake for our industry, your company and the future of the country.

It’s tempting to look at the dysfunction in Washington and try to ignore it. What’s happening in D.C. is frustrating, but when you wake up tomorrow, the federal government will still be around and will still be impacting your company and your bottom line.

Remember, AED’s PAC is about your company and the issues that affect your markets and costs of doing business: infrastructure, taxes, labor, energy, and regulatory policy.

Go to and give us “prior approval” in accordance with federal election laws so we can communicate with you openly about our political program.

There’s an old saying in Washington: “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” The AED PAC helps give us the ability to make the dinner reservation.

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