What is a Super PAC?

What is a Super PAC? Definition.

A Political Action Committee (PAC) is a group formed to support the eventual outcome of an election to public office or a specific piece of legislation, and all groups raising or spending more than $1,000 are regulated by the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Severe restrictions are placed on these PACs concerning their activities, including but not limited to individual contributions of $5,000 per year and factual reporting of the identity of the donors.

Super PAC

However, the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC opened the door to the creation of Super PACs, which do not have any limitations placed on the amount of monetary contributions they receive. Disclosure of donors’ identity is voluntary and such identity can furthermore be easily obscured by accepting donations from affiliated non profit organizations, which by law only have to disclose such information to the IRS and nobody else.

What is a Super PAC? Limitations, advantages and main activities.

Super PACs are forbidden to have official direct contact with the candidates they support. The two key words are official and direct. Although not allowed to directly coordinate efforts with the Super PAC, candidates can still communicate their desires to their supporting Super PAC via public media or through speeches.

Two recent new studies, one performed by U.S. PIRG and the other by Demos, recently reported 6.4% of contributions as untraceable, meaning that the identity of donors is unknown. This has led to vigorous debates over possible foreign contributions to influence the outcome of U.S. elections, reminiscent of the 1990s brouhaha and subsequent investigations brought on during the Clinton-Gore re-election campaign.

Thus far, Super PACs have mainly limited themselves to running negative ad campaigns against the opponents of their favored candidate, an increasingly popular election campaign strategy. No politician of any stripe will frown on such a practice and the biggest advantage to a running candidate from having the support of a Super PAC is the simple fact that the candidate has the ability to disavow such ads.

What is a Super PAC? The political culture according to Stephen Colbert.

With the assistance of his attorney, fomer FEC Commissioner Trevor Potter, comedian Stephen Colbert has created his own Super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, to raise public awareness about what he considers the absurdity of campaign finance laws in regard to Super PACs. His Super PAC is apolitical and is not designed to support any candidate per se, but has provided fodder for his comedic talents.

What is a Super PAC? The 2012 election campaigns.

* President Obama
The U.S. President has recently thrown his support behind a Super PAC by the name of Priorities USA Action, although he has repeatedly criticized the disproportionate influence of special interest groups on elections.

* Newt Gingrinch
Winning Our Future is the vehicle of choice for Newt Gingrich and reported $1.17 cash on hand through December 31, but no mention was made of the $10 Million donation received from Sheldon Adelson and his wife.

* Mitt Romney
His Restore Our Future Super PAC reportedly spent $15 Million in January 2012 on ads prior to the Florida primary.

* Rick Santorum
Going by the name of The Red, White and Blue Fund, this Super PAC supposedly is backed by wealthy investor Foster Friess. Rick Santorum denied any knowledge of what transpires within the Super PAC, although he admitted that he has been friends with Foster Friess for 20 years.

Until campaign finance laws are revisited, Super PACs seem to destined to become a major driving force in election campaigns. Candidates are already blurring the line even further by giving their representatives the green light to make speeches at Super PAC fundraisers.

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