Mar 1

Past Event

Campaign Finance in the 2012 Elections: The Rise of Super PACs

Event Materials



  • Full Video: The Rise of Super PACs

    Archived full event video.

  • Why Corporations Spend on Elections

    Trevor Potter: People and corporations have vastly different interests in election outcomes. People need representation on many different issues while corporations need only those elected officials who’ll fight for policies that expand profits.

    Trevor Potter

  • GOP Likely to Benefit Most from Super PACs

    Anthony Corrado: Both parties are going to spend enormous amounts of money in this cycle; but it’ll be the Republican candidates who benefit most from outside spending.

    Anthony Corrado


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From “American Crossroads” to “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow,” so-called "super PACs" have emerged as the dominant new force in campaign finance. Created in the aftermath of two landmark court decisions and regulatory action and inaction by the Federal Election Commission (FEC), these independent spending-only political action committees are collecting unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations and unions to advocate for or against political candidates. The legal requirements they face—disclosure of donors and non-coordination with the candidates and campaigns they are supporting—have proven embarrassingly porous. Increasingly, super PACs are being formed to boost a single candidate and are often organized and funded by that candidate’s close friends, relatives and former staff members. Their presence is most visible in presidential elections but they are quickly moving to Senate and House elections.

On March 1, on the heels of the FEC’s February filing deadline, the Governance Studies program at Brookings hosted a discussion exploring the role of super PACs in the broader campaign finance landscape this election season. Anthony Corrado, professor of government at Colby College and a leading authority on campaign finance, and Trevor Potter, nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a former chairman of the FEC and lawyer to Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert, presented. 

After the panel discussion, the speakers took audience questions. Participants joined the discussion on Twitter by using the hashtag #BISuperPAC.

Event Agenda


March 1, 2012

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM EST

The Brookings Institution

Saul/Zilkha Rooms

1775 Massachusetts Avenue, NW


For More Information

Brookings Office of Communications

(202) 797-6105