By Progress PAC
We are very proud that the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce has entrusted us to serve as the members of Progress PAC, the multi-candidate political action committee created by the Chamber and focused on our upcoming school board and city council elections. Though we are appointed by the Chamber’s Board of Directors, we operate independently from that same board.
Some people in the community have questions about how Progress PAC will operate, who we might support, and how endorsements might be made. Some have criticized the timing of Progress PAC’s establishment, and we acknowledge it could have been better. However, our primary goal is to have a positive impact in this election cycle.
Now that Progress PAC has been created, we are largely autonomous. The Chamber’s Board may not approve or disapprove of any endorsement decisions we may make; the Chamber’s Board cannot approve or disapprove of contributions that Progress PAC either receives or distributes. The Chamber contributes no funds to PAC operations; we are supported by donations made directly to the PAC and we must report those to the appropriate election commissions.
So, here’s what Progress PAC has done:
- We have registered with the election commissions in Roane and Anderson counties.
- We have opened a bank account and have begun to receive contributions made out to Progress PAC and delivered to 1400 Oak Ridge Turnpike. Those contributions—as well as any expenditures—will be reported to both election commissions in compliance with election laws.
- We have determined the process by which we may make endorsements and have communicated that to all Oak Ridge School Board and City Council candidates qualified by their respective election commission. They are straightforward:
- All candidates have had equal opportunity to participate; it has been completely up to them.
- For consideration, a candidate must have answered a simple questionnaire by 5 p.m. Monday, September 29.
- All candidates completing and returning the questionnaire by deadline were invited to interview with our committee.
- After interviews, the PAC will determine what support, if any, will be offered to candidates. The PAC will decide if it wishes to contribute to a candidate’s campaign, provide our own independent endorsement advertising, or both. As we write this column, those interviews are incomplete and those endorsement decisions have not been made.
Some candidates have elected not to return their questionnaires to us, not to participate in interviews, or not to accept PAC funds if offered. Instead, some have posted answers to our questions on their own websites, blogs, Facebook pages, or through other means. They should be thanked for that transparency. Others have chosen to complete the PAC endorsement process, presumably to learn more about the concerns of the business community. They should be praised as well. Whether to accept a PAC donation or other Progress PAC support—if offered—will be up to them.
So, though we regret that some believe Progress PAC represents an unwelcome change to the political process, we hope the community will acknowledge that:
- Progress PAC has helped to start a broader conversation about the issues facing our community.
- Progress PAC has helped to communicate the concerns of the business community to incumbents and to candidates; likewise, candidates and incumbents are communicating their concerns to Progress PAC.
- Progress PAC has made the Chamber’s role in political affairs more transparent.
- Progress PAC has created another vehicle through which individuals and businesses may participate in the political process.
If we accomplish nothing else, we believe Oak Ridge citizens, incumbents, and candidates will have benefitted from a broader exchange of ideas and opinions.
Chairman, Progress PAC
Treasurer, Progress PAC