The Troubling Message Behind AIA’s “Pause” on ArchiPAC

On January 13th, 2021 the American Institute of Architects announced it was putting an indefinite pause on all ArchiPAC activities. In the AIA’s announcement they mention that the reason for the pause is because they’re conducting “further review of the political situation and to enable the development of protocols to address this and future events aimed at undermining American voters”. This is the bare minimum response that AIA could’ve provided given that they’ve not only lined the pockets of dozens of the 147 members of congress who voted to overturn the results of our country’s democratic process; but they’ve also consistently failed to meet their stated purpose, which is to give to candidates “who support our legislative agenda outlined in the [AIA’s] Policy Platform.” The AIA’s announcement refuses to acknowledge that ArchiPAC funding efforts to throw out election results is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the dysfunction of the AIA’s participation in our country’s system of legalized bribery. In fact, when it comes to its stated purpose, ArchiPAC is an abysmal failure.

This excerpt from the ArchiPAC page of AIA’s website lays out a mission that ArchiPAC’s giving routinely ignores.

The three legs of the AIA Policy Platform are “A Future Economy”, “Climate Action”, and “Healthy Communities.” As I’ve covered previously, ArchiPAC giving contradicts Healthy Communities and Climate Action goals when its giving supports legislators who have desires for both expanding the world’s largest prison infrastructure and abandoning important commitments to the environment in favor of profiting off of pollution.

I haven’t yet pulled an example of the damage done by ArchiPAC to the “A Future Economy” leg of the AIA Policy Platform, so let’s take a look. The December, 2020 stimulus package passed by congress is loaded with both direct and indirect support for low-income housing, which aligns with the Platform’s desire to “invest in low-income housing tax credits.” Not to mention that the package renews the popular PPP program, which many architecture firms have utilized to save jobs (including some real eye-popping ones). And of course it also contains provisions for stimulus checks too, which benefit the often criminally underpaid architecture professionals whose good work makes the names behind all those letters in the big firms’ acronyms so successful. Seems like a pretty important vote for ArchiPAC’s beneficiaries in congress to approve, right? But ArchiPAC gave $109,000 over the last three election cycles to members of congress and their PACs who voted against this critical legislation. And there you have it, I’ve kicked out all three stool legs from under ArchiPAC — note that these are just three examples, and there’s plenty more out there when you dig into the mud. If you’ve donated to ArchiPAC in the past based upon their stated purpose of bolstering the AIA’s Policy Platform through PAC giving, then you should be upset.

Members of Congress & Their PACs Who Voted Against Stimulus & Affordable Housing & Got 💰 From ArchiPAC

Name (Party – State)Contribution Year(s)Total Contributions
Kevin Brady (R-TX)’16, ’18, ’20$16,000
Steve Chabot (R-OH)’16$2,500
Garrett Graves (R-LA)’16$2,500
Sam Graves (R-MO)’16, ’18, ’20$10,500
Mike Kelly (R-PA)’16, ’18$5,000
Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA)’16, ’18, ’20$8,500
John Shimkus (R-IL)’16, ’18, ’20$6,500
Joe Wilson (R-SC)’16$1,000
Tim Scott (R-SC)’16, ’20$6,500
Mike Conaway (R-TX)’18$2,000
Virginia Foxx (R-NC)’18, ’20$7,500
Kurt Schrader (D-OR)’18$2,500
Mike Simpson (R-ID)’18(Returned)
McMorris-Rodgers American Dream Project PAC’18$1,000
Tomorrow is Meaningful PAC’18$1,500
Jodey Arrington (R-TX)’20$1,000
Don Bacon (R-NE)’20$2,500
Troy Balderson (R-OH)’20$2,500
Mike Bost (R-IL)’20$2,500
Vernon Buchanon (R-FL)’20$1,000
Buddy Carter (R-GA)’20$8,500
Mike Gallagher (R-WI)’20$1,000
Darin LaHood (R-IL)’20$7,500
Devin Nunes (R-CA)’20$1,000
Adrian Smith (R-NE)’20$1,000
Lloyd Smucker (R-PA)’20$1,000
Brad Wenstrup (R-OH)’20$1,000
Scalise Leadership Fund PAC’20$5,000

PACs can be a rather nebulous and inefficient way of maybe influencing change, which might be one reason why you don’t see ArchiPAC touting any concrete success stories. Every PAC has to be completely unscrupulous in its bribery with the futile hope that the money will bring back more benefits to the PAC’s funders than it does harm to them. Unlike a corporate PAC, an architecture PAC doesn’t even have a corresponding security on the stock market from which a member of congress could gain an (illegal) inside trader’s profit should they support the PAC’s legislative desires, so the slim odds of success in the bribe biz get even slimmer for architects. In the current era of politics, it’s not like congresspeople are out there hiding their intentions or ideology, so we’re all but assured how they’re going to vote even before it happens despite the flow of cash to their pockets. None of this seems like something that architects should be getting involved in. So many of the recipients of ArchiPAC’s money are so deeply troubling that you have to question the decision making that went into them in the first place. Over the years ArchiPAC Steering Committee and Fundraising Committee members and their firms along with AIA staffers at both the national and local levels have consistently been some of ArchiPAC’s biggest donors; they should come out and explain themselves if they’re going to keep doing this dirty job. But what I really want is for them to stop and for ArchiPAC to go away forever, and so should you.

Here at the start of 2021, ArchiPAC’s annual fundraising competition remains active, as does its online donations portal. It’s giving for the 2022 election cycle had already begun prior to the so-called pause. These are important details because, according to the Federal Elections Committee, a PAC can only shut down when it no longer receives contributions and it no longer makes expenditures. It’s clear that all the AIA wants to do is wait for the uproar over ArchiPAC to subside and then quietly go back to business bribery as usual, which means ArchiPAC continues giving in ways that undermine AIA’s Policy Platform. This is why I demand that we #DefundArchiPAC, and it’s why I need all of you to speak up and demand the same. It’s time to end ArchiPAC forever.