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.