(CNN) – Super PACs, the vehicle of choice for outside group spending in the 2012 presidential election, so far have spent at least $6 million on the upcoming South Carolina Republican presidential primary and more than $26 million overall in an effort to influence the outcome of the race for the White House, according to federal campaign records.
So-called super PACs, which were created following a pair of federal court decisions in 2010, are permitted to receive unlimited campaign contributions from corporations, labor unions, and wealthy individual donors. Traditional federal political action committees and candidate campaign committees may only receive limited contributions from individuals, political parties, and other political action committees. Under federal law, candidates and super PACs are not permitted to coordinate campaign activity.
Tune in Thursday at 8 p.m. ET for the CNN/Southern Republican Presidential Debate hosted by John King and follow it on Twitter at #CNNDebate. For real-time coverage of the South Carolina primary, go to CNNPolitics.com and on the CNN apps for iPhone, iPad, Android or other phones.
- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker
Super PACs made their campaign debut in the 2010 midterm elections, when they collectively spent $390 million.
Like other federally regulated committees, super PACs are required to regularly disclose their donors, but the most active committees of the 2012 campaign are not required to file their first disclosure report until the end of the month.
Topping the list of big-spending super PACs is Restore Our Future, which is run by supporters of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. The group has invested at least $7.8 million in the Republican primary contest as of last Friday, almost all of it on television ads and direct mail in Iowa, South Carolina and Florida attacking former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Restore Our Future has also spent just over $100,000 in positive ads about Romney in South Carolina, and another $30,000 to produce television ads attacking former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in South Carolina and Florida.
A group supporting Gingrich, Winning our Future, is the second-highest spending presidential super PAC with $4.3 million spent since just before Christmas. Prior to the Iowa caucuses on January 3, the pro-Gingrich super PAC spent $1.5 million on television, radio, and internet advertising, email outreach and phone banking in support of the former Speaker. After a $3.4 million negative ad and direct mail blitz in Iowa from the pro-Romney super PAC, Gingrich placed fourth in the caucuses. The pro-Gingrich group then switched tactics and has spent at least $2.8 million attacking Romney in South Carolina on television, radio, and online.
Gingrich by far has been the most-attacked presidential candidate by super PACs this campaign cycle. A total of $7.7 million has been spent on various campaign activities advocating against Gingrich's candidacy, and almost all of that amount comes from the pro-Romney Restore Our Future. The second-most attacked candidate, Romney, was the target of $3.2 million in expenditures, almost all of it from the pro-Gingrich super PAC.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been the beneficiary of almost $4 million in spending by Make Us Great Again, a super PAC that supports the Lone Star State chief executive. Texas Rep. Ron Paul has the support of at least two super PACs that have spent a combined $3.3 million in activities advocating his presidential bid. One such group, Endorse Liberty, has spent $2.9 million in support of Paul, almost entirely on internet-based advertising. The group also boasts one of the more unusual super PAC spending items so far this campaign: almost $3000 in "costumes" in the days leading up to the Iowa caucuses.
I understand that over 90 percent of President Obama's campaign contributions is $250 or less, with the average being $55. I gave $50 and will be giving more this week. Obama again 2012!
I guess there is no reason for ordinary Americans to vote. Super Pac money will decide for us. Nice to have the decision made for us, huh?
Hopefully this pac spends all there money in the primaries. This Romney guy is from Utah and belongs to a non tradional cult/religious group. He doesn't stand a chance to get elected in a regular election. The American voters WILL NOT VOTE for him or anyother quirky beliefs in the general election.It isn't going to happen.
Big shock! The corporate lap-dogs benefit from the Supreme Court's decision that "corporations are people too!". The working-class Republicans need to know they are being manipulated by corporate contributors who have bought and paid for the Republican candidates – especially Mitt Romney.
►TRENDING: Pro-Romney group leads 2012 super PAC spending blitz◄
Wall Street ties – Richie Rich folks – People living on the Ritz
But Romney has NO HANDS in that – that are out there on their own
Yea, right MITTENS, they are all around you while you sit their on your throne!
Interesting that these PACS are all coming to light now. Of course, the criticism is met with a they did so we did. The candidates take no responsibility for the nasty ads which are inaccurate as well. The Republicans do not seem to worry about this at all. They seem to believe the more the merrier. They do not seem to get the point that these PACS will create an atmosphere of hate and contempt. Why do we allow this to happen?
I don't know who is winning but I can tell you that the American public is losing. This is not as bad as their decision in Bush V Gore, but it is pretty close. The Supreme Court is supremely wrong. In giving corporations the status of citizen without making them pay taxes they have turned our founding principals on their ear. They have given corporations "representation with taxation. Shame on them.
Super PACs should be illegal! Do you really want corporations to have as much pull as your individual votes? This is a travesty. I thought the gov"t was supposed to cut down on this thing, and now they've made it much easier, and for GOP of all people? (who will most likely implode anyway, I have yet to see anything productive on their campaigns!)
Aren't they all filthy rich? And isn't that the fulfillment of the American dream? Sure, it can be achieved in many ways, honest or not. But it is not wrong to be rich. It's how you live and what you do with it that counts.
Oh man ! I blew the punch line. It was supposed to say "They have given corporations "representation without taxation". Shame on them.
Quite an omission.
These Millionaire and Billionaire don't want to pay a little more In Taxes, But the are willing to spend Million on these Republican Candidate. And all but one Is going to be a waste of money.
These politicians talk about cutting Free hand outs and entitlements, what is a super pac is there a difference. I just don't get it and they have no problem taking it. Someone please explain this to me. Is this an oxymoran?
Wonder how they would do without the super pac? Just asking
The Supreme court should be eliminated!
Their political bias has no place in the American legal system.
Their appoIntments are no less important than the election of the President since their terms do not expire.
There has to be a better way than politically biased appointments. Their influence on American culture is too great
Nothing compared to the well oiled billion dollar Obama media machine. It will dazzle and delight you. Impress you and caress you. It will BLOW YOUR MIND. Why? Because it's all a bunch of hot air. Obama is a failure.
Don't you just love how all these superPacs have all those fancy names about restoring america and helping people. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Republicans sure are good with words. But thats all they are... just words.
@Truth and Nothing but the truth ...see this name is a prime example of typical repubs with fancy wording. No offense but you wouldn't know the truth if it came up and bit you on the backside
Now go watch some more faux ( news) and get your daily talking points
its the economy stupid ...super pac or no money thats what I'm voting for the hell with lies and unfullfilled promises ,popularity charisma and historic snafu is not paying for my rent gas inflation out of touch and freken unemployment...give someone else a chance..
Follow the money and you will see who is funding Romney. Much of it coming from multi-national corporations and lobbyist sleazy balls. Most of Obama's money is coming from private citizens $250 or less.
Super pac try to brain wash voters and the sad thing is, it works most of the time. Use your god given mind folks, don't be sheep. Politicians also use the same mind games on us, be above them, make up your own mind. Not everything they say and do is true. They sell themselves for a vote. Pretty sad, I think.