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Limited Policy Action Lets Super PACs Quickly Grow to $600 Million

Despite limited policy action on super PACs, these new entities are quickly occupying a major place in federal elections. Issues of independence, transparency, and the relationship with other entities may bring super PACs into public policy discussions.

In just 10 months of operation in 2010, almost 80 super PACs emerged, spending a total of approximately $90 million — more than $60 million of which went to elect or defeat federal candidates through independent expenditures. Super PAC activity increased sharply in 2012; more than 400 active super PACs spent more than $600 million directly supporting or opposing candidates.

Super PACs in Federal Elections: Overview and Issues for Congress,
Report R42042

“Various issues related to super PACs may be relevant as Congress considers how or  whether to pursue legislation or oversight on the topic. These include relationships with other political committees and organizations, transparency, and independence from campaigns.”

“For those advocating their use, super PACs represent freedom for individuals, corporations, and unions to contribute as much as they wish for independent expenditures that advocate election or defeat of federal candidates. Opponents of super PACs contend that they represent a threat to the spirit of modern limits on campaign contributions designed to minimize potential corruption.”

We’re adding this report to our library of recommended readings. It’s well-documented and serves as a guidebook to understanding how super PACs developed, what they have done, and what public policy issues may be coming up.

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