ratPAC is exactly what it sounds like: A political action committee that represents fraternities and sororities.
No, it doesn't lobby for better beer pong tables or cheaper Dave Matthews Band tickets. Instead, it aims to "build a positive presence in Washington that helps to protect the fraternal experience."
That apparently includes fighting anti-hazing legislation, according to a new report from Bloomberg.
Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) backed strict anti-hazing legislation as a state senator in 2005. In September, it seemed like she was going to take a similarly tough stance in Congress, vowing to pass a bill that would kill financial aid for those who engaged in hazing.
Lianne Kowiak hoped Wilson could pass legislation that would help prevent incidents like the one that killed her son, Harrison, who died at 19 after getting hazed by his fraternity brothers on a dark field in North Carolina. There have been 59 hazing-related deaths since 2005, with half of them involving alcohol.
Now, 19 months later after Wilson promised to fight hazing in Congress, no legislation has been filed. What Kowiak wasn't counting on was the influence of FratPAC, which reportedly pressed Wilson not to pursue the cause.
Just how powerful is FratPAC?
For the 2011-12 election cycle, it raised $506,852, mostly from brokers who sell liability insurance to fraternities and sororities, lawyers who defend members of Greek houses, and executives of companies that raise money for them.
It was founded in 1996 after a fire in a University of North Carolina fraternity house killed five students. Back then, fraternity leadership was primarily concerned with being able to use its charitable donation funds to do things like install fire sprinklers.
Today, fighting for tax breaks for fraternities and sororites is FratPAC's main goal, although it does lobby for other things, like preventing guidelines that would have allowed schools to respond to allegations of sexual abuse with less evidence.
The chill brahs over at FratPAC overwhelmingly prefer Republican candidates, reports The Atlantic Wire's Philip Bump, with two-thirds of its donations going to members of the GOP — mostly former fraternity members.
FratPAC president Cindy Stellhorn tells Bloomberg there is no need for federal hazing laws because criminal laws and Greek guidelines already address the issue.
Kowiak, however, is not convinced.
"What are the priorities here?" she asks Bloomberg, noting that the lobby's priority "should be to stop hazing so none of our youth have to go through it."
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