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With the 2016 presidential campaign in full swing in the U.S., there's a renewed attention on the role of Super PACs in American politics. These political action committees have become such a major issue that President Obama has come out and criticized their influence on U.S. elections. Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders has outright refused to take any contributions from Super PACs. So, what exactly is a Super PAC?
These political donor groups have been around since the 1940s. Originally, PACs were a way for special interest groups, labor unions, and businesses to pool donations together for a specific campaign. PACs could only contribute $5,000 to an individual candidate and $15,000 to a national party. This all changed dramatically in 2010, following the Citizens United decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision essentially defined campaign donations as a form of free speech, even if the funds were coming from corporations. This paved the way for individuals, corporations, and labor unions to pool their funds together into a Super PAC and donate as much as they wanted. The only stipulation for Super PACs is they cannot be directly tied to any individual candidate-a rule that's often bypassed.
What does this mean? In this coming election, expect to see more money than ever before poured into political campaigns. Even so, there's a growing movement calling for campaign finance reform, with the influence of the individual being trampled by the financial sway of these mega-corporations.
How Super PACs Work (people.howstuffworks.com)
"So what exactly is a PAC?"
The 'Citizens United' decision and why it matters (publicintegrity.org)
"By now most folks know that the U.S. Supreme Court did something that changed how money can be spent in elections and by whom, but what happened and why should you care?"
2012 election priciest to date: $4.2 billion tab and rising (money.cnn.com)
"The tab for the 2012 election is breaking records, with $4.2 billion raised through Sunday on the races for the White House and Congress."