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The 'disturbing' rise of super PACs: By the numbers
A small number of super-wealthy Americans are pumping a lot of lightly regulated money into the political system. Here's how it breaks down
 
The Obama-friendly super PAC Priorities USA Action has already received $2 million from DreamWorks' Jeffrey Katzenberg, and will likely garner millions more from wealthy Democrats.
The Obama-friendly super PAC Priorities USA Action has already received $2 million from DreamWorks' Jeffrey Katzenberg, and will likely garner millions more from wealthy Democrats.
Ron Sachs/Retna Ltd./Corbis

President Obama got some grief this week when he reversed course on super PACs, suddenly encouraging wealthy supporters to contribute to the political spending behemoths that can accept unlimited donations from individuals and organizations. (Read a quick primer on super PACs here.) Obama campaign manager Jim Messina explained the change of heart as a nod to reality, saying Democrats can't "unilaterally disarm" while cash pours into Republican coffers. How much cash? A lot, say Kenneth Vogel and Abby Phillip at Politico. A new report from two public-interest groups confirms fears "that the cash for big-ticket campaign spending like TV advertising is increasingly controlled by an elite class of super-rich patrons not afraid to plunk down a million bucks or more for favored candidates and causes." Here, a stats-based look at the "disturbing" super PACs:

299
Registered super PACs

$181 million
Amount raised by all super PACs in the past two years

56
Percent of those donations that came from "fewer than 200 super-rich people"

93
Percent of individual super PAC donors who gave at least $10,000

$34 million
Amount donated by just 32 people last year

17
People who gave at least $1 million to super PACs last year

15
$1 million-plus donations that went to Republican-aligned super PACs

$2 million
Amount DreamWorks' Jeffrey Katzenberg donated to Obama-aligned Priorities USA Action

$8.6 million 
Amount Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons and his company gave to American Crossroads and other GOP-aligned super PACs

$11 million
Amount casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his family donated to Newt Gingrich's super PAC

$175,000
Amount liberal financier George Soros donated to super PACs (though he made political contributions of more than $20 million in 2004)

$30.2 million
Amount raised by Mitt Romney–aligned Restore Our Future PAC last year

$18.4 million
Amount raised by Karl Rove–founded American Crossroads last year

$4.4 million
Amount raised by Obama-aligned Priorities USA Action

$250 million
Non-super PAC funds raised by Obama's campaign and the Democratic National Committee last year 

Sources: American Prospect, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Demos, Los Angeles Times, Politico

 

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