Fraternities and sororities flex their political muscle

Their lobby group, known as FratPAC, is wielding influence on Capitol Hill to advance the collegiate social system's interests.

By Bruce Kennedy Jul 26, 2013 1:53PM

Think fraternities and sororities are an outdated part of America's colleges and universities? Think again.

Bloomberg reports membership in so-called Greek letter organizations has been blooming for a while now. In fact, the national fraternities and sororities have enough economic muscle to have their own lobbying group on Capitol Hill -- called, not surprisingly, FratPAC. It has been working to find tax breaks while combating national hazing penalties.

But FratPAC is running into opposition from the families of dozens of students who have died in the past decade or so during frat-related hazing or binge drinking events.

North America has more than 100 sororities and fraternities, with membership in the national organizations topping 630,000 last year, up 25% from 2007.Image: College student (© Stockbyte/Getty Images/Getty Images)

According to Bloomberg, the national frats and their charitable foundations had $170 million in revenue in 2010 -- mostly from student dues -- while fraternity foundations held $534 million.

The "Greek community" likes to point out its members do well both on campus and after graduation. The North American Interfraternity Conference says half of all top 10 Fortune 500 CEOs came out of the system. Forty-four percent of U.S. presidents have also been members of a social fraternity, while in the current 113th Congress, 39% of senators and 24% of representatives were in Greeks.

So it's not too amazing that FratPAC is getting good face time with lawmakers in Washington, D.C. The group's call for tax breaks dates back to a deadly 1996 fraternity house fire at the University of North Carolina. After that incident, fraternity and sorority organization began to lobby for a federal law that would allow them to use their charitable funds to retrofit their houses with fire sprinkler systems.

FratPAC is also using its leverage to campaign against a federal bill first proposed in late 2011 by Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., to stop hazing on campus. Bloomberg says FratPAC has "dissuaded" Wilson from filing the legislation.

Since its establishment in 2005, FratPac has contributed $818,000 to congressional political campaigns. Some of its largest contributions, according to Bloomberg, have gone to Capitol Hill supporters of its tax-break initiative.

More on moneyNOW

Jul 26, 2013 2:53PM
"...half of all top 10 Fortune 500 CEOs came out of the system. Some 44% of U.S. presidents have also been members of a social fraternity.."

I suspect this has more to do with wealth than being in a fraternity. Students from wealthy families are more likely to "go Greek," and wealthy families are well connected.
Jul 26, 2013 3:17PM

"FratPAC is also using its leverage to campaign against a first proposed in late 2011 by Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., to stop hazing on campus."


Good. Next time a student dies as a result of hazing, I hope ScatPac gets sued into the Stone Age.

Jul 28, 2013 3:44AM

Wow, such bitterness.  I thought it sounded like good news.  Fighting for student rights.  I know a lot of "greeks" still after 20 years removed from the UW and all are upstanding citizens.   Not all rich or in politics, but good solid people.


Maybe you all should stop stereotyping what you obviously know nothing about.  :)


My two cents....

Jul 27, 2013 11:56AM
ABSOLUTELY... Let's get some political direction from people who are willing to sign up for a credit card with an annual fee just to get a tee shirt. Instead, let's un-PAC America and terminate life for the unwilling (because PACs kill). Groups give the weak a voice that rarely aligns with the majority, and never take responsibility for driving us to ruin after they force us to adhere to their paid-for legislation.
Jul 26, 2013 5:12PM
That a high percentage of politicians come through the Greek system is a fact that I think they would wish to conceal.
Jul 27, 2013 8:46AM
Stop hazing, but WHY??! Look at those statistics, these organizations are like a-hole factories. We should just replace hazing with gladiatorial combat, we could seriously cut down on the number of d-bags on this planet (pun intended).
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