Show Me the Money: How SuperPACs are Influencing the Presidential Race

By: Clay Wyatt

Political action committees (PACs) have been around since 1971. Such committees have traditionally faced numerous restrictions on donor types and amounts. However, Supreme Court decisions in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission gave rise to so-called “Super PACs” in 2010.

Super PACs may solicit unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, unions and other groups. Although they may not coordinate directly with or donate directly to candidates or campaigns, they may support particular candidacies and oppose others. These include – you guessed it – Obama and Romney.

Who are the Super PACs supporting in the current Presidential race?

Overview

As of the time of this writing, the 640 groups that are organized as Super PACs have raised over $240 million during the 2012 election cycle. Thus far, they have spent over $133 million. This money has been spent on the main contenders – Obama and Romney – as well as other candidates.

Negative Spending

As can be expected, every candidate that has been in the spotlight for a considerable period of time has been subjected to plenty of opposition spending. President Obama has had nearly 5 times as much money spent against him as he has for him. The strongest contenders of the Republican race – Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich (out) and Rick Santorum (out) – have also been subjected to much more negative spending than positive.

Spending on Obama and Romney

For better or worse, money is a primary factor in the outcome of elections. The average voter doesn’t take much time to do independent research. Thus, donations to Super PACs are critical in order to gain votes for a particular candidate and discourage votes for others.

With this in mind, it is important to note which candidate generates more financial support from Super PACs. Let’s take a look at how donors have voted with their dollars.

Mitt Romney

The Restore Our Future Super PAC – commonly thought to have been created to support Romney’s campaign – has accounted for over 44 percent of total Super PAC spending thus far. Every last dollar has been spent either in favor of Romney or in opposition to his top competitors. In total, this Super PAC has raised nearly $61.5 million and spent nearly $54 million to assist Mitt Romney’s campaign.

Romney also generates support from the Citizens for a Working America PAC, albeit much less. This group has raised and spent approximately $455,000 in his support.

President Obama

President Obama has had much less success than Romney with Super PACs. To date, just over $14.5 million has been raised in his favor, most of which comes from Priorities Action USA. Under $10 million has been spent in favor of Obama as of the time of this writing.

Conclusion

As we head into the Presidential election, Mitt Romney has been proven as a magnet for donations. All signs indicate that Romney is the preferred choice of the wealthy, which could make Obama a one-term President.

Still, Romney is far from a shoo-in. He only recently sealed his fate as the Republican nominee, so look for Obama to generate additional support as he locks in on his target. Also, anything can happen between now and November, including a poor choice for a running mate or a scandal. Romney has a major edge in Super PAC support as we head into the home stretch, but Obama may very well narrow the gap as we near the finish line.


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