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The Forum

A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics

Ed. by Disalvo, Daniel / Stonecash, Jeffrey

4 Issues per year

IMPACT FACTOR 2016: 0.397

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2016: 0.476
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Volume 10, Issue 4 (Feb 2013)


Super PACs and the 2012 Elections

Victoria A. Farrar-Myers / Richard Skinner
Published Online: 2013-02-09 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/forum-2013-0006


This article examines a number of potential concerns about unlimited donations to, and independent expenditures by, Super PACs. More specifically, how have Super PACs and other independent organizations acted in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United? What effects did they have during the 2012 electoral season? What implications might their activities have for the conduct of American democracy going forward?


About the article

Victoria A. Farrar-Myers

Victoria A. Farrar-Myers is Professor of Political Science and Distinguished Teaching Professor at The University of Texas at Arlington. Her scholarship includes numerous publications in the areas of presidential-congressional politics, campaign finance, reform politics, and the democratic nature of U.S. elections.

Richard Skinner

Richard Skinner teaches political science at the New College of Florida. He is author of More Than Money: Interest Group Action in Congressional Elections (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007) and has published in The Forum, Perspectives on Politics, the Journal of Politics, Political Science Quarterly, Presidential Studies Quarterly, and American Politics Research.

Corresponding author: Victoria A. Farrar-Myers, UT Arlington

Published Online: 2013-02-09

All data in the above two paragraphs were derived from the Center for Responsive Politics’ www.opensecrets.org website, and was current through August 11, 2012 (the date last visited).

Farrar-Myers comments that “independent expenditures could easily slip into what might be called ‘structurally independent but functionally coordinated’ expenses” (Farrar-Myers 2012, 141). Garrett observes that critics of Super PACs “contend that they are the latest outlet for unlimited money in politics that, while legally independent, are functional extensions of one or more campaigns” (Garrett 2011, 1).

For a more in-depth examination of the Edwards-Flores race, see Farrar-Myers and Sledge (2011).

The YG Action Fund was founded by and has senior advisors who were aides to Cantor. Cantor, however, had described the Super PAC as “an outside group I have no control over” (House 2012). Cantor Denies Control Over YG Action Fund. National Journal. Available at http://hotlineoncall.nationaljournal.com/archives/2012/05/cantordenies-c.php (last visited August 12, 2012).

Other presidential candidate Super PACs were dominated by staffers and donors with ties to the candidate. Winning Our Future, which supported Newt Gingrich, was run by former staffers for the Gingrich campaign and Gingrich’s leadership PAC. It was primarily funded by Sheldon Adelson and his relatives; Adelson had long supported American Solutions for Winning Our Future, a 527 committee tied to Gingrich. Make Us Great Again (MUGA), which supported Rick Perry, was founded by Mike Toomey, a former chief of staff for Perry, and G. Brint Ryan, a leading Perry donor. Many of MUGA’s largest supporters had already “maxed out” their contributions to the Perry campaigns. Our Destiny PAC, which supported Jon Huntsman Jr., was primarily funded by Huntsman’s father, and was directed by Fred Davis, a former advisor to Huntsman’s campaign. By contrast, Endorse Liberty, which backed Ron Paul’s presidential ambitions, was primarily funded by Peter Thiel, a leading venture capitalist and outspoken libertarian, and was directed by high-tech figures without obvious ties to the Paul campaign.

Rob Collins, the former president, further estimates that the threshold for a typical congressional election after which spending loses its effectiveness is $10 million (Campaigns and Elections 2012).

Citation Information: The Forum, ISSN (Online) 1540-8884, ISSN (Print) 2194-6183, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/forum-2013-0006.

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©2013 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston. Copyright Clearance Center

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