As a sociologist, I see the world as consisting of two kinds of objects: individual people or groups and the relationships that exist between them. To understand the social world, we need to track both.

To see what I mean, let’s look at Maine leadership PACs, fundraising groups led by members of the Maine State Legislature. On March 8 the editorial board of the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel recommended that leadership PACs be outlawed.

Why? To answer this question, we might use Maine Ethics Commission data to look at the committees’ individual activity last year:


Leadership PAC Legislative Officers $$ Received in Contributions (2014)
Alfond Business Community & Democracy PAC Senator Justin Alfond (D) $228,858.00
ANNE PAC Senator Anne Haskell (D) $41,275.00
Bangor Leadership PAC Representatives Aaron Frey (D) and Adam Goode (D) $7,475.00
Capital Leadership PAC Senator Roger Katz (R) $86,149.62
Charting Maine’s Future Senator Garrett Mason (R) $39,675.00
DIAMOND PAC Senator Bill Diamond (D) $38,180.00
DION FOR MAINE Representative Mark Dion (D) $9,925.00
Empowering Maine Leadership PAC Representative Barry Hobbins (D) $44,750.00
Eves Leadership PAC Representative Mark Eves (D) $49,825.00
Gideon Leadership PAC Representative Sara Gideon (D) $24,350.00
GO MAINE PAC Representative Andrew McLean (D) $4,715.00
House Democratic Campaign Committee Representative Mark Eves (D) $655,978.05
House Republican Majority Fund Representatives Ellie Espling (R) and Kenneth Fredette (R) $195,554.95
Leadership for Maine’s Future Representative Kenneth Fredette (R) $53,549.00
Leading to a Balanced Maine PAC Senator Thomas Saviello (R) $25,300.00
Maine Senate Republican Majority Senators Andre Cushing (R), Michael Thibodeau (R), and Garrett Mason (R) $390,324.89
McCabe Leadership PAC Representative Jeff McCabe (D) $36,056.25
Prosperity for Maine’s Future Representative Matthew Pouliot (D) $2,126.00
RESPECT MAINE Senator Andre Cushing (R) $157,000.00
Rotundo Leadership PAC Representative Peggy Rotundo (D) $10,717.37
Senate Democratic Campaign Committee Senators Justin Alfond (D) and Dawn Hill (D) $831,762.00
Senate Republican President’s Fund Senator Michael Thibodeau (R) $22,810.00
Star City Leadership PAC Representative Robert Saucier (D) $3,375.00
Still Fed Up With Taxes Representative Jeffrey Timberlake (R) $57,904.00
The Dawn Hill PAC Senator Dawn Hill (D) $29,800.00
Women’s Leadership Fund Representative Deborah Sanderson (R) $9,450.00
Working Families PAC Representative Diane Russell (D) $10,188.44


This individual-level table describes who is involved in leadership PACs (both Republicans and Democrats, both women and men, both senators and representatives) and how widely the PACs’ activities are. But these individual characteristics, while important, are not enough.

The editorial board’s concern stems from the sense of obligation that the sending and receiving of money creates. Obligations occur in relationships between individuals.

Let’s track some of those relationships. In the graph below, arrows track contributions from one leadership PAC to another, with larger arrows indicating larger contributions between PACs.


Not surprisingly, the flow of money between leadership PACs is segregated by party in this otherwise strongly connected network.

Perhaps more surprisingly, the pattern of money flow differs between parties. While Democratic leadership PACs funnel contributions to broad party committees, the largest transfers between Republican leadership PACs are directed to the leadership PACs of two Senators, Roger Katz (Capital Leadership PAC) and Andre Cushing (RESPECT MAINE).

These differences in relations may reflect or lead to important differences in political power in a legislature whose decisions affect us all.