Everything You Need to Know About Super PACs

The Rise of Corporate Contributions and Big Money in American Politics

The term super PAC is used to describe what is technically known in federal election code as an "independent expenditure-only committee." So what is and independent expenditure-only committee and where did super PACs come from? Which ones are conservative and which ones are liberal?

Here's a guide to super PACs and the people behind them.

Super PAC Definition

U.S. dollar bank notes
U.S. dollar bank notes. Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images News

Super PACs operate similarly to traditional political-action committees - with one very important distinction. Both can advocate for the election or defeat of candidates by purchasing television, radio and print advertisements and other media.

But super PACs are permitted to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money from corporations and unions. In other words, the big difference comes down to money, money, money. Super PACs are spending tens of millions of dollars in the 2012 presidential race, the first contest affected by the court rulings allowing the committees to exist. Why is that? And is it good for the Republic? Read more ...

The Biggest Super PACs to Watch in 2016

Sheldon Adelson
Sheldon Adelson. Ben Gabbe/Getty Images

Which will super PACs have the biggest impact on the 2016 election on the Republican and Democratic sides? 

Top 5 Conservative Super PACs

Karl Rove
Karl Rove served as deputy chief of staff and senior adviser to President George W. Bush. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images News

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's campaign got a massive boost from conservative super PACs in 2012, and one in particular. Restore Our Future Inc. raised tens of millions of dollars to help the former Massachusetts governor try to unseat President Barack Obama.

But Restore Our Future is by no means the only conservative super PAC trying to influence elections in the United States. Some of the other influential outside groups are funded by Karl Rove, a former adviser to President George W. Bush, and U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, a Tea Party-style Republican. Read more ...

Top 5 Liberal Super PACs

George Soros Picture
George Soros. Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images Entertainment

President Obama got substantial backing from liberal super PACs in his bid for a second term in the White House, and from one in particular. Priorities USA Action raised millions on behalf of the former U.S. senator from Illinois.

Find out what other liberal super PACs exist, and see who's funding them and which candidates they're supporting. Learn which causes wealthy Democratic donor George Soros donated to, and see how liberal super PACs worked to keep an eye on Republicans candidates during their public appearances. Read more ...

Citizens United and Super PACs

Hillary Clinton
Getty Images

Read about one of the court cases that started it all: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Find out why the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark decision stating the federal government cannot limit corporations - or, for that matter, unions, associations or individuals - from spending money to influence the outcome of elections.

See what roles Hillary Clinton and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution played. Read more ...

How to Start a Super PAC

Stephen Colbert
Comedian Stephen Colbert, seen here in Washington, D.C., after addressing the Federal Election Commission, has has own super PAC. Mark Wilson / Getty Images News

Stephen Colbert has a super PAC. So why can't you? The answer is: You can.

Here's a handy guide on how to start a super PAC. All you really need is a desire for civic engagement, a smidgen of creativity, a healthy dose of charm and a good friend to keep track of all the money you'll be raising.

Oh, yeah. You'll also need to fill out a little bit of paperwork and send it off to Washington, D.C. But it's no big deal, really. You can be off and running with your own super PAC in a matter of hours, if not minutes. Read more ...

How Much Money Do You Need to Run for President?

Jeb Bush
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, son of former President George H.W. Bush and brother of former President George W. Bush, is pictured here in 2012. Mike Coppola / Getty Images Entertainment

If you're thinking of running for president, you'd better be saving your pennies. It takes money to be taken seriously in politics. It takes money to raise money. Lots and lots of money.