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Monday was a big filing day for PACs and other political groups

Sabri Ben-Achour, Kimberly Adams, and Meredith Garretson Apr 19, 2024
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"Having cash on hand becomes an important metric for understanding how much by way of resources a campaign or a PAC has yet to spend," said University of Mary Washington's Rosalyn Cooperman. Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Monday was a big filing day for PACs and other political groups

Sabri Ben-Achour, Kimberly Adams, and Meredith Garretson Apr 19, 2024
Heard on:
"Having cash on hand becomes an important metric for understanding how much by way of resources a campaign or a PAC has yet to spend," said University of Mary Washington's Rosalyn Cooperman. Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images
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Monday wasn’t a big day just for tax filers; it was also a filing deadline for political campaigns and other groups involved in the 2024 election.

They have to report to the Federal Election Commission quarterly — sometimes monthly — on their fundraising and spending status. Marketplace Senior Washington Correspondent Kimberly Adams spoke with Sabri Ben-Achour to explain. Below is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Sabri Ben-Achour: So who exactly is turning in their numbers this week?

Kimberly Adams: So on Monday [April 15], we had a deadline for House and Senate campaign committees, along with what are called joint fundraising committees. Think like the Democrat and Republican Congressional Campaign Committees, along with some PACs and super PACs. Now, just as a reminder — because I know these terms go around all the time — PACs refer to political action committees. And a regular PAC has limits on how much it can receive from a given individual in the contribution, as well as limits on how much it can spend per candidate per race. But super PACs are different. And here’s Rosalyn Cooperman, chair of the political science department at the University of Mary Washington to explain that:

Rosalyn Cooperman: They are a political action committee, but they can raise unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions, individuals, but they can’t coordinate directly with the parties or candidates.

Ben-Achour: And of course, regular PACs can coordinate with candidates. But all this money we’re talking about, this is not all of the money that’s being spent on this election, right?

Adams: Yeah there’s more money in the race than just what is disclosed to the Federal Election Commission. And we won’t see disclosures from so-called “dark money groups” like trade associations or issue advocacy groups. They are major players in the election, and they run election-ish ads, and they also funnel large amounts of money to other groups. But these dark money groups don’t have to disclose their donors. So maybe you’ll look at an FEC filing for a super PAC and see a list of donors. But the donors on the list are these dark money groups that don’t have to disclose anything. The group OpenSecrets, which tracks money and politics, estimates the dark money groups spent more than $162 million in politics last year and are on track to spend way more this year.

Ben-Achour: What then can we glean from these FEC filings?

Adams: Lots of things, including how much they’re spending, how much their fundraising, but one of the more important things is how much cash campaigns have on hand, which doesn’t matter so much this early in the cycle for presidential campaigns. But some House and Senate races are a little bit different, especially if it’s a competitive district where they need to hold on to cash for the general election. Here’s University of Mary Washington’s Rosalyn Cooperman again.

Cooperman: And so understanding what that cash-on-hand rate looks like right now becomes important if the primary has yet to occur. Having cash on hand becomes an important metric for understanding how much by way of resources a campaign or a PAC has yet to spend.

Adams: Right now, Democrats seem to have the cash advantage up and down the ballot. But we’ll know more this weekend after monthly reports come in for other PACs and super PACs along with the actual presidential campaigns.

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