Super PACs are a new kind of political action committee created in July 2010 following the outcome of a federal court case known as SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission.
Technically known as independent expenditure-only committees, Super PACs may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates. Super PACs must, however, report their donors to the Federal Election Commission on a monthly or quarterly basis -- the Super PAC's choice -- as a traditional PAC would. Unlike traditional PACs, Super PACs are prohibited from donating money directly to political candidates.
As of January 06, 2012, 269 groups organized as Super PACs have reported total receipts of $32,008,813 and total expenditures of $18,092,719 in the 2012 cycle.At The Atlantic, Ben Heineman writes:
Super PACs themselves, which are organized under federal election laws, must register with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and disclose contributors. But many Super PAC donors will be tax-exempt "social welfare organizations" or trade associations or "issue organizations" organized under the Internal Revenue Code -- the so-called 501(c)(4), 50l(c)(6), or 527 entities. And, under long-standing IRS rules, such tax-exempt organizations are not required to disclose their corporate or individual donors, who will thus not be listed in Super PAC reports filed with the FEC.Another loophole involves coordination. The law forbids candidates from coordinating with Super PACs. But if the people running Super PACs have a long history with a candidate, they need little guidance. And it is lawful for candidates to provide such guidance, provided that they do so in public. At Politico, Kenneth P. Vogel and Dave Levinthal write:
Gingrich last month issued such a dictate to any outside group supporting him and took it a step further by pledging to “publicly disown” any super PAC that went negative on his behalf.
In spite of that, a supportive super PAC called Winning Our Future, run by his former aides, had signaled its intent to go after Romney. And, hours after Gingrich in his Iowa concession speech vowed to hit Romney harder, Winning Our Future began featuring on its website a tough anti-Romney ad from McCain’s 2008 campaign.
That’s likely no coincidence.
“We’re Newt’s super PAC. We take out marching orders through the media for Newt Gingrich,” said Rick Tyler, a former Gingrich spokesman who is advising Winning Our Future. “I do what Newt tells me through the media. And it’s all within the confines of the law.”