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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter August 3, 2013

527 Committees, Formal Parties, and Party Adaptation

Richard Skinner, Seth Masket and David Dulio
From the journal The Forum

Abstract

Political parties are not static organizations; they continually adapt to changes to the political, electoral, and legal environments. In this paper we argue that so-called 527 committees are another form of party adaptation. We investigate questions about their role in elections, using a dataset consisting of the personnel backgrounds of the largest 527s in the 2004 and 2006 election cycles. We examine the staffing of these groups and their ties to the formal party structures. We find that 527 organizations with stronger personnel links to formal party organizations have more connections to other 527s. The results suggest that 527s are not independent actors disrupting the party system, but rather well-placed participants in the party networks that helped parties adapt to a changing electoral context.


Corresponding author: Seth Masket, Department of Political Science, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado, USA

  1. 1

    So-called “527s” derive their name from section 527 of the US Internal Revenue Code, which determines the taxation status of political organizations. 527s are considered tax-exempt. Moreover, since they do not expressly advocate for or against a candidate, 527s do not fall under the limits on donations and expenditures enforced by the Federal Election Commission.

  2. 2

    PFA paid a $750,000 fine to the FEC to settle charges that it had illegally failed to file as a political action committee. See Phillips (2007).

  3. 3

    Lists of these committees can be found at the CFI and CRP websites: www.cfinst.org and www.opensecrets.org, respectfully.

  4. 4

    SourceWatch describes itself as “a collaborative project of the Center for Media and Democracy to produce a directory of the people, organizations, and issues shaping the public agenda. A primary purpose of SourceWatch is documenting the PR and propaganda activities of public relations firms and public relations professionals engaged in managing and manipulating public perception, opinion, and policy. SourceWatch also includes profiles on think tanks, industry-funded organizations, and industry-friendly experts that work to influence public opinion and public policy on behalf of corporations, governments, and special interests. Over time, SourceWatch has broadened to include others involved in public debates, including media outlets, journalists, and government agencies. Unlike some other wikis, SourceWatch has a policy of strict referencing, and is overseen by a paid editor. SourceWatch has 37,220 articles” (www.sourcewatch.org). We believe the last two sentences are key to having confidence in the information on this site, as opposed to a page such as Wikipedia.

  5. 5

    More details on these data can be found in Skinner, Masket, and Dulio (2011).

  6. 6

    We excluded lobbying firms from the dataset.

  7. 7

    The equation used by the ERGM model was model <- ergm(fives.net~edges + nodematch(“dem”) + nodecov(“size”) + nodecov(“partiness”) [+ gwdsp(0.5)]).

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Published Online: 2013-08-03
Published in Print: 2013-07-01

©2013 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston