Should U.S. donors give to an EA-focused PAC like Guarding Against Pandemics instead of individual campaigns?

post by BrownHairedEevee (evelynciara) · 2022-05-20T23:49:18.466Z · EA · GW · 6 comments

This is a question post.

In investing, we want to diversify our holdings to ensure that we don't lose too much money if any one asset's value crashes. More technically, we want to minimize the overall risk of our portfolio by investing in a basket of uncorrelated assets, which can be encapsulated in an index fund. Likewise, if a donor is interested in supporting a bunch of EA-aligned political candidates, wouldn't it be better to donate to a political action committee (PAC) that supports all of them, such as Guarding Against Pandemics [EA · GW]?

Note: Under U.S. election law, individuals and corporations can contribute up to $5000 to a PAC,[1] and PACs can donate their proceeds to political campaigns (up to $2600-5000 per candidate). Super PACs can receive unlimited amounts of money from donors but cannot donate their proceeds directly to candidates.[2]

  1. ^
  2. ^

    Ballotpedia - PACs and Super PACs


answer by Zach Stein-Perlman · 2022-05-21T01:05:23.491Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

EDIT: probably, in general. Direct donations are better for electing candidates, but donations to a PAC like GAP's are better for influencing them, and the latter is generally more tractable.

Probably not, particularly if you're interested enough to research individual candidates.

(1) As a member of the GAP team recently noted [EA(p) · GW(p)], it's significantly better for candidates to get a dollar of direct donations than a dollar of PAC support.

(2) GAP is nonpartisan, with good reason; but insofar as you have reason to believe that electing officials from one party is better than the other, you should avoid supporting the other party in competitive general elections.

(1 is a much bigger reason than 2, and as a quick lower bound on effectiveness, just donating to a random GAP endorsee would be better in expectation than donating to the GAP PAC.)

(Diversification considerations are minimal on the scale of an individual's contributions, since on the scale of individual contributions, the last dollar you donate to a candidate is almost as effective as the first dollar you donate. See, e.g., Giving Your All.)

(Also note that most of GAP's endorsees are not "EA-aligned," they're just more anti-pandemic than most.)

comment by Jeremy (captainjc) · 2022-05-21T11:25:02.961Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I believe the comment you linked to in 1 is referring to the Protect Our Future super PAC, which was, in Carrick’s case buying ads for him and could not donate to his campaign directly.

My understanding is that the GAP (non-super) PAC donates directly to candidates (up to $5000), that they can then spend those funds the same as any other campaign contribution.

The benefit, as it was explained to me, was that GAP is in contact with the candidates, does some amount of vetting, and the candidates see that the money comes from them. An individual donation would not carry any association with preventing pandemics. Important because these are candidates that are not EA aligned or necessarily that committed to pandemic preparedness.

I believe that is the basic case for it. That said, it seems unlikely to be anywhere close to as impactful as a donation to an EA aligned candidate (not sure there are any of those right now though), and I am not aware of any kind of cost effectiveness analysis comparing such a donation to AMF or anything like that.

There is also the $5000 limit that you can donate to GAP as well.

There was this post from GAP about it a while back, but I didn’t find that it made a very strong case for it. [EA · GW]

Replies from: zsp
comment by Zach Stein-Perlman (zsp) · 2022-05-21T11:33:49.753Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Oh, this seems like an excellent point. I'll try to learn more but in the meantime you changed my mind. I'll edit the parent comment.

Also, for the how-the-PAC-supports-candidates question, it would be useful to know what specific kind of PAC the GAP PAC is. (A "multi-candidate PAC"?) I didn't find this quickly on Google but surely it’s public.

Replies from: captainjc
comment by Jeremy (captainjc) · 2022-05-21T12:52:16.360Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I’ve seen it referred to as a hybrid PAC, but I’m not sure what that means exactly. I guess that part of it is unlimited in funding but can’t donate to candidiases and part of it is limited and can.

answer by Matthew Yglesias · 2022-05-21T02:18:14.457Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Candidates for office, by law, get a more favorable rate on TV ads than superpacs do.

So up to the legal limit, a direct donation to a candidate is more valuable.

comment by Jeremy (captainjc) · 2022-05-21T11:08:19.762Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

My understand is that this is different (maybe a PAC rather than super PAC?) and that, the way it is setup, it actually donates directly to the candidates, but is limited to $5000 per candidate, and $5000 per person donating to GAP.


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