Business Groups are Following the Grassroots Around PAC Limits

  • Votes teed up on health insurance, repealing Biden rules
  • Both chambers back Tuesday; July 4 recess starts Friday

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Your money’s no good here.

That’s the message from an increasing number of lawmakers to business political action committees.

It puts industry PACs in a pickle as they grapple with waning influence from frozen contribution limits and stigmas over political donations.

That’s led some PACs to use online individual donations — a major focus of modern fundraising — to feed candidates’ growing campaign price tags. And it’s turning what’s largely been a grassroots fundraising tool into one that promotes corporate interests.

Jonathan Zucker, a former executive director and board member of the Democratic online fundraising platform ActBlue, said the company he founded back in 2009 — Democracy Engine — is seeing more interest from lobbyists for its donation tools.

Heading into the 2024 elections, Democracy Engine is on pace to process more individual donations for business, association and union political action committees than ever, according to statistics the company shared with Bloomberg Government.

One of those is the National Retail Federation’s PAC, which started using Democracy Engine tools this year.

“There’s been a push away from traditional PACs,” said Jason Straczewski, the retail group’s vice president for government relations and political affairs.

Straczewski said the retailers group can solicit donations for candidates on their websites and then show their campaigns the number of donations it generated for them. The NRF website, for example, lists 31 lawmakers — both Democrats and Republicans — that supporters of the group’s agenda can donate to.

Among those listed are Reps. Lance Gooden (R-Texas) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who recently introduced a bill to give retailers more options for networks to process credit card transactions. Senate sponsors of the bill, including Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), are also listed on the online donation page, which has a button for a $5 donation (though donors may give any amount within the individual limits).

“A lot of the political parties are leveraging smaller dollar donations, campaigns are leveraging smaller dollar donations, so why shouldn’t the US retail community leverage its collective voice,” Straczewski said.

Tori Ellington, senior manager of political engagement for the Public Affairs Council, called it an “empowerment tool” and said it gives business and lobbying groups additional options for getting “involved in politics and elections.”

So far, it hasn’t generated much criticism from political money watchdog groups that regularly attack corporate PACs.

Carol A. Laham, an election law partner with the firm Wiley, which represented Democracy Engine in an FEC request last year, said “nobody seems to have any complaints about individual money in the system.” Read more on how the workaround is changing the influence game.

House Republicans are slated to vote on a package of business-friendly health insurance bills meant to help employers save on providing health coverage for their workers.

The legislation (H.R. 3799) largely aims to give employers the option to fund coverage options for their employees that don’t have benefit requirements or pre-existing condition protections. Supporters say the changes would let small businesses offer health care plans, while opponents contend they could undermine the Affordable Care Act and efforts to limit stripped down health plans.

One of the incorporated bills (H.R. 2813) would limit regulation of medical stop-loss plans and another (H.R. 2868) would loosen the definition of an association health plan. Together the proposals would allow more businesses to offer coverage that isn’t regulated like more expensive, but typically more comprehensive, group plans.

Committees approved three of the bills by largely party-line votes. A fourth (H.R. 3798), which would simply require the Treasury Department to notify businesses of the coverage options available to them, garnered the support of most Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee.

The House Rules Committee meets Tuesday to set the rules for floor votes on the bill and two other measures: H. Res. 461, which would condemn using elementary and secondary schools to provide shelter for migrants; and H.R. 3564, which would undo recent changes made by the Federal Housing Finance Agency to the upfront fee structures of mortgages guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The changes, which took effect May 1, are part of a multiyear effort by the agency to increase equitable access to housing. According to a Congressional Research Service report, low-risk borrowers will still generally pay less than high-risk borrowers under the new fee structure.

Leaders plan additional votes on bills under suspension of the rules addressing veterans benefits, health insurance reporting to the IRS, and a trade pact with Taiwan.

Republican leaders also teed up a vote on overriding President Joe Biden’s veto of a measure (H. J. Res. 45) to cancel his student loan forgiveness plan. The House voted 218-203 to pass the legislation in May. The Senate vote was 52-46. Read the BGOV Bill Summary.

Senators could also hold a vote on overriding Biden’s veto of S. J. Res. 11, which would overturn the EPA’s new, more-stringent truck emissions standards. The Senate passed it 50-49 in April, while the House cleared it by a 221-203 vote in May.

Neither measure is likely to secure the two-thirds support necessary to overcome Biden’s veto.

The Senate meets Tuesday to vote on nominations including Julie Rikelman’s confirmation to be a judge for the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Senators could vote later next week on Natasha Merle to be a judge for the Eastern District of New York and a tax treaty with Chile.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is preparing to mark up its Agriculture-FDA and Military Construction-VA spending bills next Thursday.

Senate Banking Committee leaders plan a hearing on Philip Jefferson to be the Fed’s vice chair on Wednesday. Fed board nominees Lisa Cook and Adriana Kugler will also be discussed.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell will deliver the central bank’s semiannual monetary policy report to Congress, appearing at the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday and the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday.

Both House and Senate versions of the annual defense authorization bill are scheduled for markup next week. The House Armed Services Committee will complete its version (H.R. 2670) during a full committee markup Wednesday. Senate Armed Services subcommittees mark up individual portions of their bill Tuesday and Wednesday with the full committee markup scheduled to start Wednesday afternoon and continue Thursday and Friday if needed.

For a list of next week’s hearings and markups, click here. Track committee votes on bills and nominations here.

Editor’s Note: BGOV’s Congress Tracker will not publish during the Juneteenth federal holiday on Monday, June 19. Publication resumes Tuesday, June 20.

— With assistance from Alex Ruoff and Zach C. Cohen.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kate Ackley at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at; Loren Duggan at; George Cahlink at

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