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Joseph Kennedy III creates leadership PAC

Joseph P. Kennedy III

John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Joseph P. Kennedy III

WASHINGTON – US Representative Joseph Kennedy III, a freshman Democrat from Massachusetts, has launched a leadership political action committee called “4MAPAC,” a signal of his intention to use the Kennedy name to build a political base through fundraising.

Kennedy registered the PAC with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday. A Kennedy aide said the PAC will allow Kennedy to raise greater amounts of money and contribute to the races of fellow members and others moving forward, particularly critical as Democrats strategize to win back the House in 2014.

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Individuals can give up to $5,000 a year to a leadership PAC, whereas individual contributions to a candidate is limited to $2,600 per election.

Leadership PACs were traditionally established by members in party leadership positions or those with such ambitions but have become more common as the amount of money poured into US election campaigns has exploded.

Money given to leadership PACs can only be spent on other candidates, donated to a party’s congressional campaign committee, or on a member’s travels to fundraisers on behalf of other candidates, said Eric Heberlig, a political science professor at University of North Carolina Charlotte and co-author of “Congressional Parties, Institutional Ambition, and the Financing of Majority Control.”

With money comes power, and there’s the expectation of a “quid pro quo in the future when it comes to leadership position votes or bill votes,” Heberlig said, speaking about leadership PACs in general.

Kennedy, the grandson of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, the son of former US Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II, and great-nephew of President John F. Kennedy and Senator Edward Kennedy, has proven to be a prolific fundraiser, having raised $4.2 million in the last election cycle. His campaign has about $300,000 cash on hand as of the end of 2012. First quarter reports are due Monday.

Kennedy won the seat formerly held by Barney Frank, and sits on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee as well as the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

His staff downplayed the significance of the PAC, a fundraising arm many other members of Congress have also established. Among the Massachusetts delegation with leadership PACs: James McGovern, Michael Capuano, John Tierney, and Richard Neal.

“Like many of his colleagues, Congressman Kennedy wants to support causes and candidates that he believes in,” said Emily Browne, Kennedy’s spokeswoman.

Tracy Jan can be reached at tjan@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeTracyJan.
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