A political action committee, or PAC, is an organization of people with common goals that collects money to contribute to candidates for political office.
COOP—Cooperative Outreach for Objective Politics—was organized in 1974 by members of the Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives, now Cooperative Network. COOP contributions go to candidates for state office who support the legislative goals of cooperatives. COOP contributions encourage a strong bond and working relationship between cooperatives and elected officials. COOP contributions are an effective way of saying thank you to legislators who are sensitive to the interests and concerns of Wisconsin cooperatives and their members.
A committee of COOP contributors supervises operations and, with advice from Cooperative Network staff on legislative voting records, guides COOP’s contributions to candidates. COOP supports both Democrats and Republicans. COOP contributions are based, first and foremost, on demonstrated support for cooperatives and cooperative issues. Fundraising for COOP is typically done in conjunction with Cooperative Network’s annual meeting in November, where “Back Your PAC” buttons are sold and silent and live auctions are held to raise money for COOP.
Cooperative Network members also have the opportunity to be politically active through the organization’s conduit, the Cooperative Network Direct Givers Fund.
A conduit is an organization that receives money from individuals for political purposes. The money is then deposited in a financial institution and transferred to candidates or campaign committees by the conduit administrator at the request of the contributor.
Cooperative Network’s conduit was formed in 1996 to provide co-op members, directors and employees with another opportunity for political involvement. A key element of the conduit is that each participant retains the absolute right to decide when and where their contributions are distributed. Cooperative Network, the sponsoring body of the conduit, follows political events and makes suggestions as to where contributions would be most beneficial, but the ultimate decision on whether a contribution is made rests solely with each program participant.
The conduit allows Cooperative Network to track the political giving activities of its members and helps candidates recognize individuals as cooperative supporters. Contributions are transferred to state candidates with a check from the conduit account and individual contributors are listed on a transmittal letter that must accompany each check.
In addition to COOP and the Cooperative Network Givers Fund, Cooperative Network also administers PACs and conduits on behalf of its Farm Credit and rural electric cooperative members. Farm Credit members are encouraged to contribute to the WI Farm Credit PAC and WI Farm Credit Conduit, and rural electric members have the opportunity to get involved through ACRE and the WECA Direct Givers Fund.