Requested by Nicholas Kraft

Superpacs, Explained

In honor of the first Republican presidential debate tomorrow, we're bringing you a couple of lists about superPACS. (Thanks for the suggestion, @Nicholas)
  1. They're new to politics
    If you’ve been thinking “why didn’t I hear about these things in government class?” it’s because superPACs are relatively new to town and really just hitting it big this election cycle. In 2010, the Supreme Court issued its Citizens United ruling that restructured campaign finance. The court ruled, 5-4, that corporations and independent groups can spend unlimited funds for or against presidential and congressional candidates, ushering in superPACs.
  2. It's all about the money, money
    A person can’t give more than $2,700 per election to an official presidential candidate or campaign. But donations to superPACs -- considered independent committees -- are unlimited. That’s how director Steven Spielberg could donate $1 million to Hillary Clinton’s superPAC and former Oracle CEO Larry Ellison gave Marco Rubio’s superPAC $3 million.
  3. They're independent (technically)
    SuperPACS, officially called “independent expenditure committees,” have two big rules: they can’t give money directly to a candidate and they can’t coordinate how they spend their money with the candidate or campaign. But they can, and many do, align with a candidate and spend money to further his or her message. And many superPACS are run by candidates’ former staffers and aides.
  4. There are loopholes to that "coordination" thing
    Before officially announcing their candidacy, many made speeches or held fundraisers for the superPACS that support them now. That doesn’t, technically, count as a “candidate” coordinating with a superPAC. As NPR’s Peter Overby reported (http://n.pr/1NaCVSm), “By not declaring, and thus not being constrained by federal limits, they are free to coax billionaires into writing multi-million dollar checks."
  5. 2016 is already blowing 2012 out of the water
    Some numbers: A superPAC supporting Jeb Bush, Right to Rise, has raised the most to support a candidate so far this cycle -- $103 million. The superPAC supporting Hillary Clinton has raised $15.7 million. At this point in the 2012 election, a superPAC supporting Obama had only raised $3.4 million (adjusted for inflation). More on 2016 superPAC fundraising: http://n.pr/1MbalD3