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Super PACs, those fundraising behemoths critics say have the potential to sway voters and the 2012 election, recently released the amount of donations they have received since the start of the year. It's not insignificant: OpenSecrets.org reviewed the filings provided by 313 super PACs and calculated that they have spent a combined $46.2 million in the 2012 election cycle so far.
"Restore Our Future," the political action group that supports Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, raised more than $30.2 million, a record for the 313 super PACs reporting donations. The Newt Gingrich-backed super PAC "Winning Our Future" took in $2.1 million, and the "American Crossroads" committee, the conservative group linked to GOP strategist Karl Rove, collected $18.7 million since Jan 1. By comparison, "Priorities USA Action," a super PAC that supports President Obama's re-election, raised just $4.4 million in all of 2011.
Super PACs came into being after the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission. Essentially, that sweeping 2010 decision determined that corporations, labor unions and individuals could give unlimited money to political groups to spend on elections. The Supreme Court determined the free speech protections individuals have, courtesy of the Constitution, would now apply to corporations, too. Super PACs cannot directly coordinate with political candidates, but they're often viewed as "campaign surrogates" that give unfettered advertising dollars to media outlets in support or opposition of a particular candidate.
Many wealthy individuals, from casino mogul Sheldon Adelson to Hollywood producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, have given millions to super PACs. Prior to Citizens United, political action groups were allowed to accept money from corporations, but restrictions were placed on the amount of the largesse and the timing of the donations. Super PACs are required to submit monthly or quarterly filings to the FEC, but are not compelled to disclose the identities of all of their donors.
Read More »from Citizens United: ‘Terrible and Reckless’ and Should Be Overturned, Says Pro-Democracy Activist