ASA Political Action Committee FAQ
How can I contribute to the ASA PAC?
Members: use the information on the left. This is considered a solicitation under federal law. ASA PAC is prohibited from receiving contributions from individuals other than ASA members or ASA staff. All contributions received from individuals other than ASA members or staff will be returned.
What is a Political Action Committee (PAC)?
Political Action Committees are the mechanisms through which professional and trade associations, corporations and labor unions are permitted by federal law to make campaign contributions to candidates for Congress and the presidency. While individuals can contribute directly to federal candidates, it was believed that membership organizations, unions and corporations needed a way to express their institutional support for or against candidates for federal office. PACs, which are regulated by the Federal Election Commission, are the vehicles for such contributions.
Why is it important for ASA to have a PAC?
Like any other profession, appraisers need a seat at the decision-maker's table: The appraisal profession is one of the most highly regulated in the United States, both at the federal and state levels of government. Increasingly, Congress and agencies of the federal government—such as the IRS, SEC, FHA and bank regulators—are setting the rules of the road for business appraisers, personal property appraisers, real estate appraisers and machinery and technical specialty appraisers. (Of course, real estate appraisers are also subject to the supervision of state licensing agencies.) Whenever a profession is regulated, its members—in an organized and coherent way—must be able to interact with and influence lawmakers whose decisions govern what they can and cannot do and how they provide their services. Providing financial support to the election campaigns of these decision-makers is often necessary to ensure access to and quality time with them. If you're not in the game, you don't get up to bat. Like it or not, money is the life blood of our political system.
Why should an ASA member contribute to ASA's PAC?
For reasons of financial self-interest and recognition of their profession: Decisions made by Congress on when valuations should or should not be required for federal purposes, who is or is not qualified to perform them and how they should be performed are obviously crucial to the financial well-being of ASA's members. But, donations to the PAC are important for a reason beyond their ability to ensure the financial success of individual ASA members. They are an expression and affirmation of the importance of the valuation profession as a whole. If the role played by appraisers in our economic system is unique and important, that role will either be acknowledged and respected by Congress; or, appraisers will be considered appendages of lawyers, accountants, estate planners, investment bankers and other prime time players. In order for the interests of appraisers to be advanced, the profession must be recognized as distinct from all the others. Being a professional appraiser and not supporting an organized effort to promote its interests before Congress is a little like being a citizen but not voting or otherwise participating in the democratic process.
What's the point, since we can't compete with the big givers?
The PACs of some membership associations, industry groups and companies contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to congressional candidates; and, spend hundreds of thousands more to lobby Congress. Even though it should not be difficult for ASA members to contribute thousands of dollars annually for ASA PAC, what's the point, since we can't compete with the big givers?
For a variety of reasons, a small PAC can be quite successful: There are four basic reasons why ASA's PAC can be very effective on behalf of its members even if it's small relative to those of other associations and interest groups:
- First, although ASA has many important legislative interests to advance on Capitol Hill, the number and range of issues are quite narrow relative to those of the larger and admittedly more powerful players; and, they fall within the jurisdiction of only two or three committees in Congress. Therefore, unlike the bankers, realtors, accountants, financial services firms and others, ASA can target PAC support on a couple of key committees rather than the dozens of committees which can influence the fate of the larger interest groups;
- Second, many of ASA's legislative goals are not adversarial to the financial interests of other players on Capitol Hill and, therefore, do not generate vigorous opposition. Instead of having to use our PAC funds in head-to-head competition with other interest groups, we can use them simply, but importantly, to ensure access to key decision-makers so we can make our case to them on the merits;
- Third, many PACs operate on the mistaken assumption that in order to influence legislative outcomes, it is necessary to contribute to most members of the House and Senate committees handling a particular piece of legislation and, possibly, to the leadership of both political parties on Capitol Hill. In fact, PAC contributions can be focused on the handful of opinion leaders that exist on all committees. Often, those opinion leaders are the chairman and ranking member of the full committee or subcommittee. Focusing PAC contributions on these few individuals is almost always sufficient to be successful;
- Finally, ASA almost always finds itself on the "public interest" side of issues. When ASA asks legislators for help, we're quite up front in acknowledging that what we're asking Congress to do is in the interest of our members. But, we're almost always able to also point out that our members' interests are fully compatible with the public's interest and good government.
How much money would ASA's PAC have to raise each year in order to be effective?
There's no optimal amount. But, if half of ASA members made an annual contribution equivalent to the cost of taking the family to a movie and an inexpensive dinner one night a year (e.g., $50), the total raised would be about right. That's a pretty modest investment when measured against the importance of getting our positions listened to on Capital Hill. Because it's impossible to predict the total number of ASA's contributors to the PAC, those willing to do so are urged to give as much as they can. But, even small contributions are very welcome and add up.
Who is eligible to contribute to ASA's PAC and how much can they contribute?
ASA members and ASA's executive and administrative personnel are eligible to contribute to the PAC. They can make contributions of up to $5,000 per calendar year. All contributions to ASA's PAC must be voluntary; and, dues or fees obtained as a condition of ASA membership cannot be used to fund the PAC.
How much can the PAC contribute to political candidates?
The PAC can give up to $5,000 per year to each candidate if it is a multicandidate committee; or $2,300 per candidate per year if it is non-multicandidate. A multicandidate committee is one which has received contributions from at least 51 persons; has been registered for six months; and has made contributions to at least five federal candidates.
ASA has an active governmental relations representative in Washington, D.C. Why do we also need to fund a PAC?
ASA's governmental relations efforts and ASA's PAC serve complementary, but seperate, purposes. The function of the PAC is to assure access to key decision-makers in Congress. The function of the governmental relations program is to ensure that when access is available, ASA's positions are thoughtfully crafted and effectively delivered. The governmental relations program also is responsible for carefully monitoring developments at the federal and state levels of government (including which elected officials are or are not supportive of our goals) so that PAC funds can be distributed properly and do the most good.