5 Super PACs to Watch in the 2016 Presidential Race

Independent Expenditure Committees Will Spend Nearly $1 Billion on Elections

The 2012 presidential election was the first White House contest to feature super PACs, which are allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions, individuals and associations.

And boy did they spend. And spend. And spend.

All told, super PACs spent $600 million trying to influence the outcome of elections across the United States. They included big-time super PACs supporting Republican candidates and big-time super PACs supporting Democrats.

It's not unreasonably to believe that, given the rise of super PACs and other committees that peddle in dark money, such groups will spend nearly $1 billion on the 2016 presidential race.

So which super PACs will have the biggest impact on the election? Here's a look at the five biggest super PACs for election 2016. 

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American Crossroads

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

The American Crossroads super PAC was a formidable player in the 2012 presidential election. It raised millions of dollars to oppose President Barack Obama's bid for a second term against Republican challenger Mitt Romney. 

Founded in part by Republican strategist Karl Rove, the former deputy chief of staff and senior policy adviser to President George W. Bush, American Crossroads will certainly be a player again in 2016. The super PAC, in fact, spent in excess of $20 million in the 2014 midterm election cycle.

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Ready for Hillary

Hillary Clinton
Former U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton. Getty Images

The super PAC Ready for Hillary was up and running even though the candidate it exists to support, for U.S. Sen. and onetime Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, had not announced whether she would run for the White House in 2016.

Related Story: Hillary Clinton on the Issues

Ready for Hillary raked in more than $4 million in 2013. While that doesn't sound like much compared to what American Crossroads is spending, keep in mind it was in the first year of the group's existence and, technically, without a candidate in the running.

Ready for Hillary Executive Director Adam Parkhomenko said at the time: “This movement is unprecedented – not because of our staff but because of our supporters – and we will continue to build capacity across the country to put Hillary in the strongest position possible should she decide to run.”

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Restore Our Future

Mitt Romney
Failed 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Getty Images

Yes, you read that correctly. Restore Our Future Inc. is a super PAC that raised $142 million in 2011 to support the presidential candidacy of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. So why would that matter in 2016? Well, because there's lots of speculation that Romney might run again.

But even if he doesn't run again, you can expect the conservative super PAC to support the Republican presidential and vice presidential nominees in 2016. 

Either way, Restore Our Future will be a powerful force.

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Priorities USA Action

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama. Pool / Getty Images News

If the name sounds familiar, that's because it is. Priorities USA Action is a super PAC that helped Obama win re-election in 2012. "Having played a critical role in 2012, Priorities USA Action has very clearly demonstrated its ability to help elect a Democratic president," said Jim Messina, the super PAC's co-chairman.

Messina was Obama's campaign manager in 2012.

Keep an eye on this super PAC, particularly if Hillary Clinton decides to run for president.

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Winning Our Future

Sheldon Adelson
Sheldon Adelson. Ben Gabbe/Getty Images

Winning Our Future helped keep former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign afloat in 2012. What's important to note here is that the super PAC received $10 million from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife.

What's important to note here is that Adelson, a multibillionaire businessman and prolific contributor to Republican candidates, is among the key supporters of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. While Adelson hasn't been quoted on the record as supporting Jeb Bush for president, he has thrown at least one VIP dinner for Bush.

So if Bush decides to run, as many believe he will, expect this super PAC to play a big role in the election.