There has been a lot of talk during this current presidential campaign cycle about Super PACs. But what are they exactly and what do they mean for the 2012 campaign and beyond?
Let's take a closer look:
* A Super PAC is a Political Action Committee (PAC), which is any group that receives more than $1,000 to advocate for an election. But a Super PAC is a special kind of PAC that developed out of a January 2010 Supreme Court decision.
* The ruling made it possible for individuals, corporations and other organizations to give unlimited amounts of money to these new Super PACs that will, in turn, work on behalf of the specific candidate that the PAC supports.
* Unlike a traditional PAC, a Super PAC is not allowed to coordinate directly with the candidate it supports. Instead it must work independently.
* Individuals can only give $2,500 directly to a candidate for each campaign (if the candidate is running for president the nomination campaign and the general election count as separate campaigns) so Super PACs provide an opportunity for donors to give much larger sums to support a candidate.
* Like a traditional PAC, all donors to a Super PAC who make contributions of more than $200 per year are required to be identified.
* During the current Republican Party nomination process, it has been reported that tens of millions of dollars have been spent on behalf of the candidates so far. In many cases, Super PACs are outspending the campaigns that they are supporting.
* Since the candidates themselves have no direct control over what a Super PAC supporting them might say in its advertising, candidates can't control the message. This has already causes Republican nomination hopeful Newt Gingrich to call on his own Super PAC to check their facts, says Yahoo! News, and correct any errors in a short documentary they produced about fellow G.O.P. candidate Mitt Romney.
* Super PACs have created a lot of debate during the current race for the Republican Party nomination. Even television personality, and faux-conservative pundit, Stephen Colbert has gotten into the act, mocking the process by starting his own Super PAC which he regularly promotes to his fans.