The Fast Fix: PAC-ed to the gills

Chris Cillizza
The Fast Fix

Political action comittees, or PACs, are a driving force in modern elections, moving vast sums of money in support of candidates. Now Super PACs, created in the wake of a 2010 Supreme Court ruling, can raise unlimited funds from almost any source.

Super PACs are the hottest thing in politics these days.

There's one supporting Mitt Romney, one attacking Mitt Romney. Heck even Steven Colbert has one!

So what is a super PAC exactly?

At its root, it's a political action committee -- hence PAC -- that can raise and spend money on elections. There are tens of thousands of federal state and local PACS. What makes these PACS "super" is that they can raise unlimited amounts of money from almost any source.

They came into existence after a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2010 that did away with the ban on corporations and labor unions from spending unlimited sums directly advocating for the election or defeat of candidates.

While Colbert's Super PAC is for fun, partisans on both sides of the political aisle are already lining up to form their own groups.

Republicans have American Crossroads, a super PAC that is pledging to spend upwards of $120 million on the 2012 election.  Democrats have countered with Priorities USA, a super PAC founded by two former Obama White House senior aides.

In the 2010 midterms election, the Campaign Finance Institute estimated that $300 million was spent by independent groups. Expect that number to double or even triple in the 2012 presidential race with super PAC accounting for the bulk of that spending.

At the moment, the Republican super PAC efforts are better organized, giving them an early edge. Democrats need to get caught up quickly to level the playing field.


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