Super PACs (for political action committees), were officially given the OK by the Federal Election Commission in the summer of 2010, a move that has essentially eliminated restrictions on financial contributions. Test your knowledge of Super PACs and their significance here.
Political action committees (PACs) can give unlimited amounts of money to candidates and political parties.
PACs are limited to contributing $5,000 per election to any individual candidate and $15,000 to a political party during a calendar year. Furthermore, individuals can give no more than $5,000 to a PAC.
PACs are formed by companies, unions and those interested in a specific issue.
Examples of PACs include the Microsoft PAC, the National Rifle Association PAC and the Teamsters PAC.
Individual citizens are limited in how much they can give to support a candidate's campaign.
Individuals can give no more than $2,500 per election to a candidate and a maximum of $30,800 annually to a national party.
Super PACs were officially approved by the Federal Election Commission in 2008.
The FEC issued a ruling on July 22, 2010 that gave the green light to Super PACs.
There is no limit to how much corporations, individuals and unions can give to a Super PAC.
Super PACs, unlike regular PACs, have no restrictions on how much money they can raise from companies, individuals and unions.
Super PACs can plot strategy and coordinate with a candidate's campaign.
Super PACs must remain completely independent from a political campaign.
If a candidate doesn't like what a Super PAC is saying on his or her behalf, they can force it to stop.
Super PACs can say what they want, even if the candidate they are supporting repudiates it.
Only people worth $1 million or more can form a Super PAC.
Any person can form a Super PAC, so long as they follow certain disclosure requirements.
The legal underpinning allowing Super PACs is the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case before the Supreme Court.
The result of the decision the court reached in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case was the elimination of restrictions on corporate giving in politics.
The Citizens United case was unanimous.
The case was decided by the narrowest of margins, 5 to 4.
Justices in the majority said the decision was a validation of the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, declared that the ruling clarified the First Amendment's protection of freedom of speech.
Those considered to be part of the Supreme Court's liberal faction were in favor of the decision.
Conservatives including Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Antonin Scalia and Chief Justice John Roberts all voted in the majority.
Republicans benefitted more than Democrats from Super PACs in the 2010 midterm elections.
Republican-affiliated Super PACs accounted for 55 percent of all expenditures in the 2010 midterms, which saw the GOP retake the majority in the House of Representatives.
Comedian Stephen Colbert launched a Super PAC in 2011.
Colbert received the go ahead from the FEC in the summer of 2011 to form his Super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow.
Colbert's Super PAC urged voters in the 2011 Ames Straw Poll in Iowa to vote for Texas Governor Rick Perry.
The comedian's Super PAC asked GOP voters to throw their weight behind Rick Parry with an "A," not an actual candidate and Governor Rick Perry with an "E."
President Barack Obama was opposed to the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling.
After the ruling, President Obama called it a victory for big corporations over the interests of regular Americans.
There are no Super PACs supportive of President Obama.
Despite President Obama's opposition to the court ruling allowing Super PACs, supporters of the president have formed Priorities USA Action.
Karl Rove was the force behind forming an influential Super PAC.
The former President George W. Bush's adviser formed American Crossroads, which spent three times more than any other Super PAC in the 2010 elections.
As of September 2011, there were more than 100 Super PACs.
The Center for Responsive Politics reports in late summer 2011, there were 141 Super PACs, though the number was increasing by about one per week.
Most believe that the emergence of Super PACs will be an important factor in making the 2012 presidential election the most expensive in history.
There is unanimity amongst political observers that Super PACs will help boost 2012 presidential campaign spending to unprecedented levels.
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