Addressing Questions About Pi Beta Phi’s Support of the FSPAC

In late December 2020, Pi Beta Phi’s seats on the Fraternity/Sorority Political Action Committee (FSPAC) became vacant when both representatives chose to resign for personal reasons. At this time, Grand Council made the decision not to appoint a new representative to the FSPAC for 2021, and instead committed to taking this opportunity to evaluate Pi Beta Phi’s engagement with the FSPAC.

Pi Beta Phi continues to believe in the goals of the FSPAC and the importance of taking part in the legislative process. Ensuring that policy makers understand the value of the fraternity/sorority experience and the value our members add to their communities is critical. Many Pi Phis have made investment in the FSPAC a personal priority and we encourage their continued support.

Why be a member of the FSPAC?
The Fraternity has been a member of the FSPAC since 2014. Each year, the Fraternity has given great consideration to Pi Beta Phi’s involvement in the FSPAC. Understanding the legislative threats to the Fraternity – such as the threat to Pi Beta Phi’s single-sex status – Pi Beta Phi’s Grand Councils have believed representation is advantageous.
 
What is Pi Beta Phi’s financial investment in the FSPAC?
FSPAC membership requires a $6,000 commitment (previously a $5,000 commitment). Pi Beta Phi has made a total of four gifts to the FSPAC, totaling $13,875. This includes a $5,000 gift in both 2015 and 2016 to secure a seat on the FSPAC Board for Pi Beta Phi at a time when the FSPAC and legislative agenda of the FSPAC were growing substantially and Grand Council felt securing a voice for Pi Beta Phi at the FSPAC table was important. A $2,475 contribution in 2019 and $1,400 contribution in 2020 were made to supplement member contributions and preserve Pi Beta Phi’s seats on the FSPAC board. The 2020 contribution secures Pi Beta Phi’s voice in the 2020-2021 FSPAC agenda, however as of December 31, 2020, Pi Beta Phi’s seat has intentionally been left vacant.
 
What dollars are used to support the FSPAC?
The Fraternity’s preference is to encourage gifts directly to the FSPAC from members to fulfill the annual financial commitment to the FSPAC. In the past, if the Fraternity was unable to fulfill our commitment through individual donors, the Fraternity made up the difference using alumnae dues dollars. Collegiate dues have never been used to support the FSPAC. Should the Fraternity contribute to the FSPAC in a given year, the Fraternity’s gift is restricted to the FSPAC’s Independent Expenditure Account (IEA) account. By law, this account cannot contribute directly to a candidate’s campaign. Rather, it funds various administrative activities such as FSPAC communications, training for student advocates, issue research and generic voter drives.
 
How is Pi Beta Phi represented on the FSPAC?
Through 2021, Pi Beta Phi is entitled to a seat on the FSPAC board, and therefore vote to help define the FSPAC agenda; this seat currently vacant at the direction of Grand Council. In 2020 Pi Beta Phi held two seats on the FSPAC board. At that time the FSPAC board was made up of approximately 80 members; of those, approximately 39 members represented National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) organizations. In 2020, nineteen of the 26 NPC member groups were represented  on the FSPAC board, some groups by as many as four sisters. Pi Beta Phi’s representatives are appointed by Grand Council. Candidates interested in serving would be vetted in the same way as all other Fraternity volunteers serving above the local level – through the Fraternity’s Leadership and Nominating Committee.
 
What issues make up the FSPAC agenda?
The FSPAC’s agenda focuses on protecting all student rights and fraternity/sorority student rights in particular: preserving single-sex status for Greek-letter organizations, campus safety, anti-hazing legislation and freedom of association rights – ensuring a student can join a fraternity/sorority without reprisal from their college or university.
 
What legislation is the FSPAC promoting?
At the end of 2020, there were two federal anti-hazing bills pending in Congress: the REACH Act and the END ALL Hazing Act which are supported by the FSPAC. Both the North American Interfraternity Conference (NAIC) and NPC strongly support both bills and have worked to see them included in the debate about passage of a Higher Education Reauthorization Act. It is anticipated these bills will continue to be a priority for the FSPAC. In previous terms, the Collegiate Housing Infrastructure Act (CHIA), supporting tax credits for donors to Greek-letter organization housing was a focus of the FSPAC. There has been concern over the FSPAC’s support of the Safe and Fair Campus Act. This bill has not been introduced in Congress since 2015. It is not a part of the FSPAC’s legislative agenda.
 
Does the FSPAC write legislation?
The FSPAC is an advocacy tool used to support or defend against existing or potential legislation, but it does not write or pass legislation. Only the U.S. Congress has the power to draft and pass new laws. Political Action Committees create opportunities to educate Congressional Members on important issues they may not otherwise be aware. Legislation is complicated and changes form as it passes through the U.S. Congress. Media reports do not always reflect the full story of a piece of legislation and/or legislation at the time the FSPAC has offered endorsement.

Which political candidates does the FSPAC support?
The FSPAC is bipartisan and chooses to support those who support its goals regardless of political party. FSPAC political contributions are presented and voted on by committee slate process. The FSPAC regularly supports fraternity/sorority alumni running for Congress for the first time. The FSPAC is especially interested in helping NPC organization alumnae win competitive primaries, knowing that investing early in a woman’s campaign can greatly increase her chances of winning due to reports of “cash on hand” and the ability to purchase prime media advertising placement prior to the primary and general election dates. Every alumnae of an NPC organization running for reelection in 2020 received FSPAC funding.

The FSPAC reports that candidate contributions generally align with the political party affiliation of fraternity/sorority alumni in the current Congress. In 2020, that proportion was 52% Republican and 48% Democratic.  For the 2019-2020 election cycle, through August 1, the FSPAC support had been divided 51% Republican and 49% Democratic. In the 2019-2020 election cycle, the FSPAC gave its contributions disproportionally to women candidates when compared to the number of women in Congress. The FSPAC’s decisions on candidate contributions are based on evaluating a candidate’s support for and/or influence over a set of priorities developed jointly by the North American Interfraternity Conference and the National Panhellenic Conference.  For the previous election cycle, those priorities supported freedom of association rights on campus, providing COVID-19 relief and support, passing the first-ever federal anti-hazing laws, and equalizing the tax law for all not-for-profit student housing.
 
How much money does the FSPAC give to a political candidate?
By law, the FSPAC may give any one candidate’s election committee a maximum of $5,000. Very few candidates meet the criteria for maximum support as champions of FSPAC priorities. At last report, during the 2019-2020 election cycle, only eight candidates had received the legal maximum amounts. Those candidates represented diverse backgrounds: one Latino, two African-Americans, and one Asian-American. Those members also represented both sides of the aisle, with five being members of the Democratic party and three being members of the Republican party. Of the eight, three were fraternity men, three were sorority women, and two were unaffiliated women candidates. 

How are donations to the FSPAC directed?
Donations to the FSPAC go into two separate accounts, and both are tightly regulated by the Federal Election Commission. The first account receives donations from individuals—primarily individual alumni and students of fraternities/sororities. These donations are personal and voluntary, and no portion of any dues or fees paid to fraternities or sororities can be placed into this account. Fraternity leaders have encouraged individual alumna members to contribute to this account. The FSPAC uses this account to make political campaign contributions. The Fraternity, its chapter and its Chapter House Corporations (CHCs) cannot legally give to this account. Contributions FSPAC makes to candidate campaigns come from this account. The second account is called the Independent Expenditure Account (IEA), and it can accept donations from both individuals and corporations. Should the Fraternity contribute to the FSPAC in a given year, it is to this account to help fulfill the required dollars to secure Pi Phi’s seat(s) on the FSPAC board. Though few Pi Beta Phi CHCs have made contributions, it’s common for CHCs to make donations to this account. By law, this account cannot contribute directly to a candidate’s campaign. What it does fund is various activities such as FSPAC communications, training for student advocates, issue research and generic voter drives.

Updated: January 7, 2021, to reflect all Pi Beta Phi Fraternity contributions to the FSPAC.
Updated: January 4, 2021, to reflect the vacancy in Pi Beta Phi’s FSPAC Board seats and provide clarity on election cycles referenced.
Published: August 7, 2020