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Traditional PACs Not Hurting for Cash

“They know if they give it to the [independent expenditure] account we are just going to spend that money in the areas where it’s going to do the most work,” he said. “They don’t have to do any work to choose a candidate.”

The small-government group launched its super PAC in August 2010, spending nearly $5 million on independent expenditures in the three months leading up to the midterm elections. The organization maintains a traditional PAC to bundle campaign contributions, but last year that entity raised only $540,000, about 25 percent of what its super PAC pulled in.

PACs, established in the 1970s in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, have waged their own public relations battles over the years. The committees were initially frowned upon but are now largely accepted as one way businesses engage Washington, D.C. But there is a growing skepticism among business leaders that the proliferation of super PACs is putting that relationship at risk.

“As the super PAC movement continues to grow, all of us will be watching to see how it could impact participation in the American political system,” said Mike Johnson, executive director of the National Beer Wholesalers Association.

In 2011, the association’s PAC contributed $1.4 million to federal candidates, more than any other political action committee, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Johnson said the presence of super PACS has not altered his fundraising or contribution strategy, but by this time last cycle, the association had contributed $1.7 million.

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