Where would candidates be in the presidential race without their super PAC allies? The nascent groups, created in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, have been a dominant force in the GOP primary, and they have helped extend a nomination contest that many expected to be wrapped up long ago.
All candidates have benefited from super PACs, but no group has collected more money than the pro-Mitt Romney “Restore Our Future” super PAC, which raised more than $43 million through February. That’s nearly 60 percent of the sum that the Romney campaign itself has raised.
The money in both accounts — the super PAC and the campaign — has allowed Romney’s messages to dominate the GOP race, even if his campaign is legally prohibited from coordinating on expenditures with Restore Our Future.
Newt Gingrich, meanwhile, has been aided by a super PAC called “Winning Our Future,” which has raised nearly $19 million. And the “Red, White & Blue Fund,” which supports Rick Santorum, has raised nearly $5.8 million. In fact, Winning Our Future has nearly matched the Gingrich campaign dollar for dollar: For every $1 the Gingrich campaign raised through February, the super PAC raised 91 cents.
Looming large on the horizon, however, is President Barack Obama, who has amassed more than $158 million for his re-election campaign, and, thanks to no serious primary opposition, still counts nearly $85 million in the bank. Furthermore, last month, Obama gave his blessing to a super PAC called "Priorities USA Action," which has already aired ads attacking Romney.
Whoever the GOP nominee is is unlikely to catch Obama’s fundraising haul, but with super PAC allies, he’ll be able to close the gap. Romney and his super PAC have already raised a combined $117.5 million. And since super PACs are legally allowed to accept unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, unions and other groups, one deep-pocketed donor can shift the equation literally overnight.