Political Action Committee - History

Political Action Committee - History

Political action committee (PAC) - an independent organization established by interest groups, political candidates, and people who hold office. PACs serve to raise and contribute money to the political campaigns of individuals whose platforms agree with the aims of the PAC. These organizations were founded because federal laws prohibit most interest groups from contributing money directly to political campaigns.

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Political Action Committee Examples

A political action committee, or PAC, is a tax-exempt organization that collects voluntary contributions and distributes those funds to campaigns to elect or defeat candidates running for federal, state, or local public office. PACs may also collect contributions to be used to influence the passage or defeat of state ballot initiatives, and state or federal legislation. The majority of PACs represent private businesses, labor unions, or particular ideological or political viewpoints.

Political action committees are among the most common sources of funding for campaigns in the United States. The function of a political action committee is to raise and spend money on behalf of a candidate for elected office at the local, state and federal levels.

A political action committee is often referred to as a PAC and can be run by candidates themselves, political parties or special interest groups. Most committees represent business, labor or ideological interests, according to the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C.

The money they spend is often referred to as "hard money" because it is being used directly for the election or defeat of specific candidates. In a typical election cycle, political action committee raise more than $2 billion and spend nearly $500 million.


POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEES

For political action committees (PACs) and for all other contributors to campaigns for public office, the modern constitutional era began in 1976 with the Supreme Court's decision in buckley v. valeo. In sorting out the constitutionality of the many parts of the federal election campaign act (FECA) of 1971 and 1974, the Court reaffirmed the protections of the first amendment'sfreedom of assembly and association for PACs, citing a long line of precedents that included naacp v. alabama (1958). The Court further held all campaign contributions and expenditures to be the expression of political views and thus protected by the First Amendment.

The protections of the First Amendment notwithstanding, the Court permitted much of the congressional regulation of PACs in the FECA to stand as a legitimate exercise of Congress's right to prevent "corruption or the appearance of corruption." All PAC contributions are limited to $5,000 per candidate per election. Moreover, in California Medical Association v. FEC (1981), Congress was within its constitutional powers in forbidding them to accept more than $5,000 per year from any group or individual. But because the Court in Buckley extended greater protections to campaign spending than to campaign contributions, PACs are free to pursue unregulated independent spending in campaigns—spending done, that is, without the cooperation or knowledge of the candidate being aided.

For a subset of PACs, those with sponsoring parent organizations, the burden of regulation is heavier. If a parent organization is a corporation or labor union, it is (and has long been) prohibited under federal law (and the laws of some states) from making direct political expenditures. The PAC, then, must be a "separate, segregated fund" that raises its own money for its political spending. The parent organization, however, is free under federal law to pay the overhead costs of the PAC and to direct its decisions. PACs with parent organizations are further restricted by law in their fund-raising: PACSs of membership organizations may solicit only their members with a few rarely used exceptions, union PACs may solicit only their members and corporate PACs may solicit only stockholders and nonunion employees. These limits were upheld in FEC v. National Right to Work Committee (1982).

Even though the major constitutional precedents in this area have arisen largely in cases under the FECA, they apply to state legislation as well—with one exception. In Citizens Against Rent Control v. Berkeley (1981) the Court ruled that those states with initiative and referendum elections are less free to limit PAC contributions in those elections. Because no potential officeholders receive campaign funds during such elections, there is no possibility of the campaign contributions eventually corrupting public officials.

By 1988 there were 4,268 PACs registered under federal law as against 608 in 1974 their contributions to congressional candidates had jumped from $12.5 million in 1974 to $148.1 million in 1988. That growth has given rise to proposals for new restrictions, proposals that have raised new constitutional questions. President george bush in 1989 proposed that PACs with parent organizations be banned. No details were forthcoming, but certainly an outright ban would raise serious constitutional issues, more than, say, a change in the law to prohibit parent organizations from paying PAC overhead costs. Other common proposals would cut the limit on PAC contributions to candidates from $5,000 to $3,500 or even lower. One must determine, however, at what point restrictions on contributions become an invasion of First Amendment rights. Still other proposals would limit the total receipts a candidate might accept from PACs. As limits on receipts appear to stand logically between limits on contributions and limits on spending, these, too, would appear to be in a zone of constitutional uncertainty.

Clearly, the Supreme Court has not moved very far into the balancing of the legitimate regulatory interests of Congress and the First Amendment rights of PACs. It has in fact dealt only with one extended piece of legislation at one point in time Congress has passed no major regulation of PACs since 1976, and the states began to do so only in the late 1980s. New issues will reach the courts (e.g., state limits on candidates' receipts from PACs), forcing new constitutional interpretations. Moreover, the changing status quo in campaign finance, and especially the growth of PACs, put old rules and precedents in a new legislative context.


Super PACs came into existence in July 2010 following two key federal court decisions. These found limitations on both corporate and individual contributions to be unconstitutional because they violate the First Amendment right to free speech.

In SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission, a federal court found restrictions on individual contributions to independent organizations that seek to influence elections to be unconstitutional. And in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that limits on corporate and union spending to influence elections were also unconstitutional.

“We now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption,” Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote.

Combined, the rulings allowed individuals, unions, and other organizations to contribute freely to political action committees that are independent of political candidates.


How do I become a member and/or contribute?

The easiest way to become a member of the Letter Carrier Political Fund is to contribute through automatic payroll deduction. Contact your branch leaders with questions about how you can contribute or use the forms below:

NALC encourages all members to be engaged in legislative and political activities to advance our message. But it’s crucial to remember that all active letter carriers are federal employees whose political activities are governed by the Hatch Act.

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Further readings

Anschutz, Auguste V., ed. 2002. Campaign Financing in the United States: Issues and Laws. Huntington, N.Y.: Nova Science.

Bauer, Robert F. 2002. Soft Money Hard Law: A Guide to the New Campaign Finance Law. Washington, D.C.: Perkins Coie.

Biersack, Robert, Paul S. Herrnson, and Clyde Wilcox, eds. 1999. After the Revolution: PACs, Lobbies, and the Republican Congress. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

——. 1994. Risky Business? PAC Decisionmaking in Congressional Elections. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe.

Corrado, Anthony. 2000. Campaign Finance Reform. New York: Century Foundation.


Political Action Committee - History

The Caribbean American Political Action Committee (C-PAC) was founded in November 2005 to advance the political agenda of Caribbean-Americans currently residing in the Washington DC Metropolitan Area (Washington DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia). C-PAC&rsquos overarching mission is to be the political voice of the Metropolitan area&rsquos vibrant and growing Caribbean-American community.

To that end, C-PAC will endorse and support candidates for public office in the Metropolitan area who articulate policy positions that will strengthen the economic, educational, social, and cultural conditions of individuals of Caribbean heritage residing in the Washington DC metropolitan area. C-PAC will also seek to foster greater relationships between the U.S. Federal, State and Local governments and the nations of the Caribbean.

See this video on the history of C-PAC:

THE FOUNDING OF C-PAC

In 2005, while serving as Chair of the Mayor&rsquos Advisory Commission on Caribbean Community Affairs (the Commission), Chris Gardiner concluded that it was necessary for the Caribbean Community to have a political organization, which it controlled, to advance its political agenda in the Washington Metropolitan Area (the DMV). In June 2005, Denys Vaughn Cooke and Elizabeth Stanley, two other members of the Commission, joined him to organize and found the Caribbean American Political Action Committee (C-PAC).

In order to get C-PAC &ldquooff the ground,&rdquo the organizers decided to seek out ninety-seven other individuals to become initial members of the organization. These individual, along with the three founders, would forever be known as the &ldquoFounding Patrons.&rdquo The task of identifying and convincing the ninety-seven Patrons fell primarily to our current chair, Goulda Downer. She was responsible for &ldquoconvincing&rdquo over sixty of her colleagues and friends to join us. The Founding Patrons hail from almost every country in the Caribbean, to include the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Their initial contributions ranged from $25 to $5,000. Without them, C-PAC - a truly Pan-Caribbean organization - would not exist.

  • In 2007, C-PAC participated in the Mayor&rsquos march on Capitol Hill in support of DC Voting Rights. Members wore T-shirts and carried a banner that read: Caribbean-American PAC Supports DC Voting Rights
  • C-PAC wrote to the Caribbean Common Market (CARICOM), proposing a working relationship between C-PAC and its member Countries
  • At the Caribbean Conference of Prime Ministers in June, 2007, C-PAC Chair, Chris Gardiner spoke about the regional importance of C-PAC and the significant role C-PAC plays in the political process in the DMV
  • During this period C-PAC twice wrote to Mayor Fenty requesting the creation of an Office of Caribbean Affairs. There was no response from the Mayor.
  • In 2010 C-PAC held various Community Forums in the District of Columbia, Prince George&rsquos County and Montgomery County leading up to that year&rsquos elections. Except for Mayor Fenty, all of the major candidates for political office in each of the jurisdictions participated in the Forums
  • C-PAC participated with various organizations in a headline-making press conference announcing its endorsement of Vincent Gray for Mayor of the District of Columbia.

2011-2012

  • In the run-up to the 2010 elections, candidate Vincent Gray committed to C-PAC that, if elected Mayor, he would (a) re-activate the Mayor&rsquos Advisory Commission on Caribbean Community Affairs which had been allowed to &ldquosunset&rdquo under the previous Mayor, and (b)
  • allow the Caribbean Carnival to be held in 2011 so that a study of its economic impact on DC could be conducted. In 2011, C-PAC, together with the DC Carnival Committee, participated in five (5) high-level meetings with officials of the Gray administration to ensure that Carnival took place in 2011. Council Member Muriel Bowser, or a representative of her office, was present at most of the meetings in support of Carnival.
  • Mayor Gray kept his promise to C-PAC and Carnival was held in 2011. C-PAC arranged for Howard University to conduct a study of the impact of Carnival on the economy of the District of Columbia. The results of the study were very positive. In spite of this however, the Mayor chose not to continue support of the DC Carnival beyond 2011
  • In June 2012, Maryland Governor O&rsquoMalley established the Governor&rsquos Commission on Caribbean Community Affairs. The Governor&rsquos Office contacted C-PAC directly and seeking recommendations for appointments to the Commission. A number of C-PAC&rsquos recommendations were accepted.
  • In August 2012, Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, in accordance with his promise during the C-PAC candidate forum, re-established the Mayor&rsquos Advisory Commission on Caribbean Community Affairs. Most of the members were recommended by C-PAC and were either active or inactive members of the organization.

2013-2015

  • In 2013 C-PAC Co-Founder and Chair, Chris Gardiner, resigned after 8 years at the helm to encourage new leadership and growth of C-PAC
  • In May, Founding Patron Dr. Ivan Walks, is announced as C-PAC Chair. However, Dr. Walks resigns soon thereafter without taking up office due to increased professional workload
  • In November, Founding Patron Curtis A. Ward, Former Jamaican Ambassador to the UN, accepts position as Chair of C-PAC for a one (1) year term.
  • In 2014 (March) the inaugural CPAC Informer newsletter is published and circulated to members
  • Following the Annual General Meeting, C-PAC elects a new Chair, Founding Patron Goulda Downer, Ph.D., to lead the Executive Board.
  • In 2015 Co-Founder, and Former Chair, Chris Gardiner is an honoree in the inaugural Washington, DC Mayor&rsquos Caribbean Community Recognition Awards
  • C-PAC&rsquos Chair, Dr. Goulda Downer, former Chair Chris Gardiner and Honorary Life Member, and Caribbean American icon, Mr. Leo Edwards met with the CARICOM Caucus of Ambassadors to brief them on C-PAC&rsquos activities.

Membership

C-PAC is a membership driven organization. Membership is open to all citizens of the US, but the board may refuse an application for membership. Members vote to elect the Board of Directors and to determine which candidates for political office the organization will endorse and financially support.


Political Action Committee

A group not endorsed by a candidate or political party but organized to engage in political election activities, especially the raising and spending of money for "campaigning." Some political action committees (PACs) are organized solely to help defeat a candidate deemed undesirable by the group.

PACs are most often organized around a particular trade, union, or business they are also organized to promulgate particular social, economic, or political beliefs or agendas. For example, there are PACs formed to represent the interests of the pharmaceutical industry and the automotive industry. From an ideological perspective on Abortion, there are both pro-life PACs and pro-choice PACs.

Some PACs are sponsored by a corporation, business, or Labor Union. Corporations, business interests, and labor unions that sponsor PACs are prohibited from contributing their organizations' funds to the PACs they sponsor, but employees or members of the sponsoring organizations may contribute.

Many types of special-interest groups have established PACs, including the following examples: coal operators, hospitals, labor unions, banks, doctors, feminist groups, lawyers, insurance agents, pharmaceutical companies, and manufacturers. These groups commonly form PACs to promote their legislative goals. Some of these, such as the coal industry and labor PACs, generally give most of their donations to candidates they expect to favor their legislative agendas. Other PACs, such as those created by chiropractors or publishers, may dole out small contributions to dozens of candidates with widely varying political views.

Nearly all PACs have specific legislative agendas. Special-interest PACs are a major force in the financing of congressional campaigns. Their contributions heavily favor incumbents. These PACs' numbers and influence are growing. For example, in 1976 there were only 608 PACs just 20 years later, in 1996, there were more than 4,000 PACs.

Some PACs are not sponsored by an organization. For example, some members of Congress have formed their own PACs. These PACs are separate from their candidate committees. This separation allows them to accept contributions and distribute larger sums than they otherwise could through their own candidate committee. A newly formed PAC must register with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) within ten days of its formation. The PAC must provide the name and address for the PAC, its treasurer, and any affiliated organizations.

Many politicians also form leadership PACs. These PACs are not technically affiliated with the candidate. Rather, they are a way of raising money to help fund other candidates' campaigns. Leadership PACs are often indicative of a politician's aspirations for leadership positions in Congress or for higher office.

Although PACs are used mostly by members of the House and Senate, they also can be used in presidential campaigns. For example, in Bob Dole's presidential bid in 1994, Dole formed a leadership PAC called "Campaign America." This PAC helped contribute $62,000 to state and local candidates in Iowa. This type of money helped Dole to build a very strong base of support for his presidential bid during the Iowa primaries, although he eventually went on to lose that election bid. The laws regarding public funding for presidential candidates are technically separate from the Federal Election Campaign Act, Pub. L. 92�, 86 Stat. 19, 2 U.S.C. § 451, and are found in the Presidential Campaign Fund Act, 26 U.S.C. §§ 9001-9012, and the Presidential Primary Matching Payment Account Act, 26 U.S.C. §§ 9031�.

PACs first came into existence in 1944. The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) formed the first PAC to raise money for the reelection of President franklin d. roosevelt . The PAC received voluntary donations from union members rather than from union treasuries this system did not violate the Smith Connally Act of 1943, which forbade unions from contributing to federal candidates. Although commonly called PACs, federal election law refers to these accounts as "separate segregated funds" because money contributed to a PAC is kept in a bank account separate from the general corporate or union treasury.

In 1936, labor unions began spending union dues to support federal candidates sympathetic to the workers' issues. This practice was prohibited by the Smith-Connally Act of 1943, Pub. L. No. 78-89, 57 Stat. 163 (1943). Thus, labor unions, corporations, and interstate banks were effectively barred from contributing directly to candidates for federal office. In 1944, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), one of the largest labor interest groups in the nation, found a way to go around the constraints of the Smith-Connally Act by forming the first political action committee, or PAC.

The CIO's political goal was to support the re-election of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Because the CIO was a union and prohibited from using union money to support a federal candidate by the Smith Connally Act, the PAC circumvented the prohibitions of the act by soliciting volunteer contributions from individual union members.

In the wake of the Watergate political scandal in the early 1970s, Congress passed new campaign financing legislation known as the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). FECA was intended to do the following:

  • achieve full disclosure of the sources of campaign contributions
  • limit the size of campaign contributions by wealthy individuals and organized interest groups
  • provide public funding—with spending limits𠅏or presidential candidates and
  • enforce campaign finance rules through a new Administrative Agency, the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

This legislation also continued older prohibitions on the use of corporation and union treasury funds in federal elections. These provisions of FECA were sustained by the Supreme Court in the leading case of Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 96 S. Ct. 612, L. Ed. 659 (1976).

Following the 2002 midterm elections, a new set of campaign finance laws went into effect. The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), Pub. L. No. 107-155, 116 Stat. 81, is considered the most sweeping change of the U.S. campaign finance system since the FECA. The legislation was sponsored by Senators john mccain (R-AZ) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Representatives Chris Shays (R-CT) and Marty Meehan (D-MA).

The BCRA is an attempt to curb the use of "soft money" in campaigns. Basically, soft money is money donated to political parties in a way that leaves the contribution unregulated. Conversely, "hard money" consists of political donations that are regulated by law through the Federal Election Commission. The soft money loophole was created, not by Congress, but by the Federal Election Commission in an administrative ruling in 1978. The law also increases the contribution limits for individuals giving to federal candidates and political parties.

PACs can donate up to $5,000 to a candidate's campaign committee for each individual election bid, and PACs can give $5,000 a year to any other PAC. PACs may receive up to $5,000 from any one individual, PAC, or party committee during any given calendar year. They can also donate up to $15,000 annually to any national party committee. PACs that affiliate with other like-minded PACs are treated as one donor for the purpose of contribution limits.

The Supreme Court has ruled that spending in support of or in opposition to a candidate that is not coordinated with any candidate cannot be limited. Such "independent expenditures" can be made by either individuals or PACs. Independent expenditures are those made on behalf of (or against) a candidate that are not coordinated with a candidate. For example, an exporters' PAC might spend $50,000 on TV ads critical of a candidate's stand on import restrictions and urge a vote against that candidate.

Political ads which urge the viewer to "vote for" or "vote against" a candidate are examples of express advocacy and must be paid for from contributions which come under the restrictions of federal campaign finance laws, including prohibitions on contributions by corporations or labor unions. Advertising campaigns discussing issues𠅊nd not directly advocating the defeat or election of a candidate𠅊re not subject to federal campaign finance laws. Thus, these "issue advocacy" campaigns are not subject to limits on spending or contributions and are not required to disclose their contributions or expenditures.

Further readings

Anschutz, Auguste V., ed. 2002. Campaign Financing in the United States: Issues and Laws. Huntington, N.Y.: Nova Science.

Bauer, Robert F. 2002. Soft Money Hard Law: A Guide to the New Campaign Finance Law. Washington, D.C.: Perkins Coie.

Biersack, Robert, Paul S. Herrnson, and Clyde Wilcox, eds. 1999. After the Revolution: PACs, Lobbies, and the Republican Congress. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

——. 1994. Risky Business? PAC Decisionmaking in Congressional Elections. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe.

Corrado, Anthony. 2000. Campaign Finance Reform. New York: Century Foundation.


United Political Action Committee of Chester County records

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Chester County Historical Society. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Summary Information

Cite as:

Biography/History

“In 1966, several black civil rights workers decided to form a small organization whose purpose was to end racial discrimination in Chester County." 1 So began the United Political Action Committee of Chester County. The founders included Charles A. Melton, Charles H. Butler, Norman W. Bond, Robert L. Wright, Willie Stokes, James Ward, Alston B. Meade, W.T.M. Johnson, Ernest Spriggs and Charles V. Hamilton. Charles A. Melton was the first president and Dr. Johnson was the secretary. Dr. Johnson succeeded Charles A. Melton as president and it was he who maintained and later donated United Political Action Committee’s records to the Chester Country Historical Society.

United Political Action Committee worked with other local civil rights groups and activists, including noted national civil rights activist and West Chester native Bayard Rustin, the West Chester Branch of the NAACP, and the West Chester Human Relations Council in fighting against discrimination and for fair employment. They were one of the plaintiffs in the historic racial discrimination case against Lukens Steel (Goodman vs. Lukens Steel, 1973) which went to the Supreme Court in 1986, and were at the forefront of the successful 1986 legal challenge to West Chester's use of at-large elections in determining voter representation on West Chester's Borough Council. The result of this fight was the implementation of a ward system to replace at-large elections.

1 Johnson, W.T.M., United Political Action Committee – A Brief History March 18, 1980.

Scope and Contents

The records, 1958 to 1996, include biographical material on committee members and others associated with United Political Action Committee as well as correspondence, minutes, hand written notes, legal documents, newspaper clippings, news releases, memos, scrapbooks, programs and photographs of activities. Also in the collection are papers of Dr. W.T.M. Johnson. These include indexed compilations of his published letters as well as papers related to his time as a member of the faculty at Lincoln University.

Earliest records in the collection include material related to initial reform endeavors by Dr. Johnson, the Human Relations Council and others. These included the segregation of West Chester’s YMCA, Brotherhood Week Celebration, Career Conferences for Negro Youth, improving African American students’ school performance, tutoring of students, etc. Records for the Student Equality Union and the West Chester Human Relations Council are also part of the collection.

In Box 2, are Dr. Johnson’s records of his association with Lincoln University. The collection then continues chronologically with United Political Action Committee’s organization in 1966.

Records of topics with sufficient data are filed separately within their timeframe, for example, the Lukens suit (boxes 4 through 7). The collection ends with materials on the 1996 United Political Action Committee sponsored meeting on the significance of the Goodman vs. Lukens Steel civil suit.

Box 9 contains the letters of Dr. Johnson. Letters dated 1960-1991 are bound letters dated 1992-1995 are unbound and are in Folder 1.


Free Example of Political Action Committee Essay

A political action committee refers to an organization that campaigns for a particular political candidate. A Political Action Committee may also campaign against certain political candidates whom they consider unsuitable for political offices as well as the fight for implementation of certain government policies and Legislations.

Most Political Action Committees are founded purposely for raising money to support political aspirants who they consider having desirable qualities and manifestos to lead the country or state.The history of Political Action Committees dates back to 1944 when the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) established the first Political Action Committee with an aim to raise money for re-election of President Roosevelt.Politicianspoint out the committee Americans for Prosperity as one of the most active.

Americans for Prosperity is a political advocacy group that was founded by Dick Armey, David Koch, and Charles Koch in 2004. The headquarter of Americans for Prosperity is located in Arlington, Virginia. The major goal of Americans for Prosperity is to educate Americans about issues relating to economic policies of the federal and state governments, as well as mobilization of citizens to advocate for development and implementation of sound public policies.

Funding. Americans for Prosperity is funded mainly through donations from well-wishers. According to Americans for Prosperity, more than one hundred thousand people from various states across America gave their donations either directly to Americans For Prosperity or through its sister organization, Americans for Prosperity Foundation. It is estimated that the total budget for Americans for Prosperity during the 2010 fiscal year amounted to forty two million U.S. dollars.

Support for Political Candidates. Americans for Prosperity mainly supports political candidates from the Republican Party, for instance, reports from the organization indicate that, in early 2011, it provided full sponsorship for a debate between presidential candidates from the Republican Party.According to Ruby (2011), five Republican members also joined the House Energy and Commerce Committee through the sole support from Americans for Prosperity.

Evaluation of the Influential Ability of Americans for Prosperity. In my opinion, Americans for Prosperity is the most influential and powerful Political Action Committee in America. For example, in 2010, Americans for Prosperity significantly contributed towards the election of House of Representatives. Similarly, Americans for Prosperity collaborated with Sarah Palin to organize street demonstrations against the budget of Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, in 2011. Americans for Prosperity successfully managed to fight for various reforms in the budget of Wisconsin state such as a reduction in benefits entitled to public sector unions.Moreover, Americans for Prosperity has also announced its intentions for active participation in protests against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

In 2009, Americans for Prosperity strongly opposed the plans of the federal government to take over the healthcare system in the U.S. The organization also sponsored more than two hundred and fifty rallies that aimed at creating awareness about various reforms needed in the healthcare sector.

Americans for Prosperity has had great impacts on the American political and electoral system as well as changing lives of numerous Americans through advocating for efficient public policies and processes.


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