AMPAC engages in a variety of bipartisan efforts including direct contributions to candidates, independent expenditures, political communications to physicians and electioneering communications. These activities are listed below in detail.
The most widely recognized activity by political action committees (PACs) is direct contributions to campaigns. Working in concert with state medical society PACs, AMPAC contributes to physician-friendly candidates for the U.S. Senate and House from both political parties. Many factors are considered when making contribution decisions, including state PAC recommendations, incumbent vote records, and competitiveness of races. Federal election law allows PACs to contribute up to $5,000 to a candidate per election (i.e., primary, general, run-off, and special elections) in the form of direct and/or in-kind contributions.
Independent expenditures (IEs) are political communications (TV and radio ads, direct mail, phone calls, etc.) that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate. IEs are paid for with a PAC’s “hard” dollar funds. While federal election law requires a PAC to report its IEs in a timely fashion, there are no limits on how much a PAC may spend. In most election cycles, AMPAC conducts several IE campaigns on behalf of physician-friendly candidates in tight races. It should be noted, however, that it is AMPAC’s longstanding policy to conduct only positive IE campaigns on behalf of AMPAC-supported candidates. In other words, AMPAC does not engage in “negative” campaigning. View AMPAC’s political ads.
Federal election law allows organizations like the AMA to communicate with its members and members of affiliated organizations (called its “restricted class”) about support for specific candidates. These communications, which usually take the form of letters or glossy mail pieces, are called partisan communications. AMPAC uses partisan communications to raise money for, or educate physicians about, a specific candidate. They are paid for with corporate funds (i.e., “soft money”) from the AMA Political Education Fund, which is administered by AMPAC.
Electioneering communications are vital components of any voter communication plan because, unlike independent expenditures, they enable AMPAC to spend soft money (i.e., corporate dollars) to educate voters and the general public. The typical electioneering communication consists of a TV or radio advertisement describing why Congress should address a specific issue and usually concludes with something like, “Call Senator John Doe and ask him to support the Protect America Act.” But unlike IEs, electioneering communications that identify a federal candidate cannot invoke the “magic words” of express advocacy, such as “vote for,” “defeat,” and “re-elect.”
An ad becomes an “electioneering communication” when it is broadcast on TV, radio or cable within 30 days of a primary election or 60 days of a general election, when it clearly identifies a federal candidate and when it is broadcast in the jurisdiction where the electorate can vote for the candidate. Again, magic words of express advocacy are not permitted. Electioneering communications became prevalent in the 2008 elections after a Supreme Court ruling and we can expect to see an increase in their usage in future elections. As with AMPAC’s independent expenditure campaigns, our electioneering communications are positive in nature and are only done for candidates who enjoy strong support from medicine.