Chart of the Week: The State’s Biggest and Most Active PACs

Massachusetts-registered Political Action Committees (PACs) spent close to $7 million in 2013—more than the total PAC expenditures from the entire 2011-’12 election cycle—according to my compilation of data from reports filed with the state. As usual, labor unions were the most predominant big-spending PACs.

More than half of last year’s PAC spending, roughly $3.75 million, came from a handful of new Independent Expenditure committees—so-called “Super PACs”—that poured money into Boston’s mayoral contest. Whether that makes last year an anomaly or a new baseline will likely be tested in this year’s gubernatorial contest.

The 300+ regular old PACs spent more than $3 million last year, well on or ahead of typical pace for a year in between state elections. Those PACs entered 2014 with more than $6 million in their accounts, collectively.

About half of these groups’ spending tends to go to candidates in contributions up to $500 per calendar year. The Massachusetts and Northern New England Laborers’ District Council led the way in 2013, giving more than $100,000 to candidates in 2013.

Some goes to other committees, including some large transfers to national committees. For example, Pipefitters Local 537 sent $112,000 to the federal Super PAC run by the United Association of Journeymen and Pipefitters, which in turn contributed that money to the American Working Families Independent Expenditure committee back in Massachusetts, which spent the funds to help elect Marty Walsh mayor of Boston.

Some PACs also have administrative expenses, printing and postage, and costs from running or attending events. A few have substantial other expenditures. SEIU 1199’s PAC spent more than $50,000 on advertising. The committees to elect Democrats to the state house and senate conduct research and polling.

What I’ve listed below are the PACs (not including Super PACs) that either raised more than $50,000 last year, spent more than $50,000 last year, or had more than $50,000 on hand at the end of the year. As you can see, some committees like to stockpile, and others prefer to dole out their money as they go.

These 29 PACs, by my calculations, gave $661,185 (36 percent) directly to candidates last year, gave another $293,585 (16 percent) to other committees, and spent $874,256 (48 percent) on everything else.


PACRaised 2013Spent 2013Year-End Balance
American Federation of Teachers MA$46,646$28,904$52,241
Boston Police Patrolman's Association$60,200$13,244$261,113
Carpenters Local 33$14,878$10,600$67,058
Teamsters DRIVE PAC Chapter 25$53,482$48,756$77,730
Committee for a Democratic House$137,351$177,204$47,714
Committee for a Democratic Senate$58,550$42,333$27,481
Cross and Shields$17,625$11,231$54,668
Elevator Constructors Local 4$28,125$18,366$79,189
IBEW Local 103$73,468$28,524$106,155
IBEW Local 2222$99,564$96,249$9,227
Ironworkers Local 7$49,603$89,414$35,314
Laborers District Council MA & Northern New England $762,305$111,152$701,567
MA Association of Realtors$60,551$63,523$112,515
MA Bay Transportation Authority Union Local 600$5,117$3,500$56,023
MA Correction Officers Federated Union$45,962$31,507$112,948
MA Dental Society $82,349$39,837$231,722
MA Dental Society People's Committee$336$6,722$146,977
MA Police Association$30,176$6,912$355,198
New England Regional Council of Carpenters$74,342$40,133$154,531
Operating Engineers Local 98$8,378$4,264$70,959
Pipefitters Local 537$166,452$143,466$302,405
Plumbers Union Local 12$77,547$60,641$61,153
Professional Firefighters MA People's Committee$78,181$62,261$49,530
Retired Public Employees$264,910$277,326$796,351
SEIU 1199$488,676$189,405$567,178
SEIU Local 615 Member Action*$78,790$83,225$542
Sheet Metal Workers Local 17 People's Committee$74,387$30,065$60,784
State Police Association MA$65,572$35,250$116,202
Utility Workers of America AFL-CIO Local 369$35,409$75,012$26,308

* = January through June only; year-end report not yet filed