Choosing candidates to receive PAC contributions can be a delicate endeavor and the National IFAPAC Candidate Selection Group (“the Group”) assembles objective facts on which to make judgments. Ultimately, the Group makes the disbursement decisions based on the aggregated legislative policy goals of the NAIFA federation and never on parochial or personal interests of individual NAIFA members. The following guidelines have been developed over many election cycles and are offered as useful, practical recommendations. They have been augmented and changed as conditions and election laws warrant.
IFAPAC tries to focus its contributions on races that have the most potential for increasing support for NAIFA member issues in Congress. Under certain circumstances (such as a drop in contributions to IFAPAC), this may mean shifting PAC funds from candidates with little or no opposition to candidates where a contribution would have more effect — for the candidate and/or for NAIFA. In general, IFAPAC disbursement priorities are: first, incumbent members of Congress; second, open seat Congressional candidates; third (albeit rarely), challengers to incumbent members of Congress.
A member of NAIFA who is a candidate and is running a bona fide campaign deserves favorable consideration, perhaps in only a token amount if the NAIFA member candidate is highly unlikely to win. The Group must be extremely cautious, however, about supporting any candidate, even a NAIFA member, who is running against a helpful and/or well-placed incumbent or an incumbent who is likely to be reelected.
The Candidate Selection Group actively solicits input and recommendations from state chapter PAC chairs and leaders as well as NAIFA members at large on all candidates for Congress. Input and recommendations are particularly sought in open seat and challenger races since, in most cases, such candidates are not known to the Group. Due consideration is given to candidate support recommendations from within the official PAC and NAIFA leadership family as well as rank and file members, and to races in which a NAIFA member is actively involved in a campaign organization. The Group has been charged by the NAIFA Board of Trustees to exercise final judgment on the choice of which candidates to support.
NAIFA’s most important asset in politics is its reputation for helping legislators who help NAIFA members achieve their legislative goals. The Association must hang tough with candidates, particularly incumbents, who have demonstrated support for NAIFA’s issues. The Association should not try to replace a supportive member of Congress with someone who might be a more supportive member of Congress. NAIFA should not run the PAC on a reward/punish philosophy, although some issues are of overriding concern. NAIFA hopes to help improve the quality of individuals serving in Congress, and to build long-term relationships based on mutual trust and confidence, accepting the fact that no candidate or member is likely to agree with NAIFA 100% of the time.
The chairs of key committees should be supported, as a rule, even though they may not have been particularly positive on NAIFA member issues. It is okay not to contribute at all, but only rarely should a key committee chair be opposed, particularly if he or she is likely to win. In addition, members of Congress who have achieved congressional and party leadership positions should receive extra consideration.
Members of key congressional committees who are supportive of NAIFA positions should be offered significant contributions. This can also include contributions to members of key committees who, while not especially helpful in one committee, have been very helpful on another committee. (For example, NAIFAPAC has supported senators serving on the Banking Committee who do not see eye to eye with NAIFA on regulatory reform, but who also serve on the Finance Committee and have been supportive on tax-related issues.) The Group should examine most closely the members of committees having jurisdiction over issues affecting the NAIFA legislative program. Most legislative decisions are made in committee. That being said, a member serving on a key committee who has repeatedly opposed NAIFA members on important issues may be a candidate for opposition, provided a viable opposition candidate has filed to run.
In the case of incumbents who are not on key committees, the following points may be helpful:
Support those who have supported NAIFA positions.
Provide somewhat less support or remain neutral to those who have not supported NAIFA positions, but have not opposed NAIFA issues.
Oppose those who have opposed NAIFA issues repeatedly, provided the challenger is supportive of NAIFA’s issues and has a high likelihood of defeating the incumbent.
When two House members — both of whom have been supportive on NAIFA issues — run for an open Senate seat, both can be supported. NAIFA does not want to discriminate against either of two members of Congress with similar records on NAIFA issues. An acceptable alternative is to contribute to neither.
When a House member who has been supportive challenges a supportive Senator, it is usually preferable to support the incumbent Senator. The challenger may be told that a debt retirement contribution will be considered after the election if the challenger wins.
It is almost never a good idea to challenge an incumbent Senate or House member unless there is a very good, issue-based reason for doing so and the challenger has an exceptionally good chance of winning. When a Representative who has been supportive of NAIFA issues challenges a Senator who has been negative on the issues, the challenger should be helped unless there are overriding considerations against doing so (e.g., an invincible incumbent who serves on one of NAIFA’s key legislative committees).
Because supporting challengers is an extremely sensitive and risky undertaking, it is imperative that the following protocol be honored:
Requests from any NAIFA member (other than the current state IFAPAC chair, APIC chair or Government Relations chair) directly to the National IFAPAC office will be referred back to the current state IFAPAC chair for consideration and approval before they are reviewed by the Group. (In the absence of a current state IFAPAC chair, National IFAPAC may refer requests to the state APIC chair, state Government Relations chair, and/or state Chapter Executive.)
Direct requests to the Group from the current state IFAPAC chair, APIC chair or Government Relations chair will be presumed to have the majority support of the state chapters’ IFAPAC candidate selection committee (usually consisting of, but not limited to, such state leaders as the state IFAPAC chair, APIC chair, Government Relations Chair, Association Executive, Lobbyist, President, President-Elect, and National Committeeperson).
All challenger requests, regardless of their source, must be in writing and accompanied by a completed Candidate Questionnaire.
The general rule is: don’t.
Occasionally, the Group is presented with contradictory recommendations from local or state chapter members, leaders, and NAIFA Government Relations staff for contributions in situations where two or more candidates for the same office seem of equal merit. If attempts to settle on just one candidate fails, sometimes a straddle is warranted — but only in the rarest cases. Situations, where straddles have been considered, include the following:
Contests between two friendly incumbents who have been redistricted into the same district;
Where a member of a local chapter is a candidate and the opposing candidate has been very supportive of NAIFA issues; and
Where two candidates are both deemed to be of equal potential on NAIFA issues.
Open seats offer the most complex choices, but the best opportunity for political gain. In general, selection should take into consideration the candidate’s attitude or past record on NAIFA member issues, the demographics and voting history of the district or state, the amount of local chapter member support, and electability. A Candidate Questionnaire must be filled out and approved by state leadership and CSG when requesting funds for an open seat candidate.
Choosing sides in an open election carries the risk of choosing the candidate who does not win. Some factors dictating an early entry include the following:
A clear preference for one candidate on NAIFA member issues;
A candidate receiving overwhelming support from local NAIFA chapter members; and
The primary is the de facto election.
The supported candidate does not fall under “Pay to Play” rules.
NAIFAPAC has helped to retire the debts of winners, but only after careful consideration of each situation. Obviously, where the Group knows of campaign debt situations and believes that the Association could gain from volunteering a contribution, the Group should do so. This might normally apply to candidates who were helped in the primary or general election already. Where no prior contribution has been given, candidates should be told that their request for help on retiring debts will be considered by the Group just as though it were a request for pre-election help. Each situation must be evaluated separately. All requests for debt retirement monies must be accompanied by a current letter signed by the applicable campaign’s treasurer affirming the debt, the total amount of the debt, and whether the debt is for the primary, runoff, or general election.
IFAPAC will request a refund of general funds given within 90 days of an incumbent’s announcement of retirement or resignation.