PACs and super PACs: how the rich are buying the 2012 U.S. election
PACs and super PACs have become so influential in the 2012 US Presidential race that some wonder whether America's super-rich can simply "buy" an election. Is there a point to the "one person, one vote" rule of democracy when a small handful of elites can dictate what a party does once elected?
A PAC (political action committee) is a private group set up to elect candidates or to advance a political issue or legislation. They were set up mainly during the 1940s because direct corporate and union contributions to political campaigns are prohibited by a 1907 law, and have been required to register since 1974. Super PACs -- a term that became popularized in the 2010 campaign -- influence elections that can take unlimited donations from corporations, unions or wealthy individuals.
Of the $112 million donated to super PACs so far, just 46 top donors have doled out $67 million, or two thirds of the total amount. The 46 donors are mainly:
- Energy executives, financial services tycoons and hoteliers
- Socially and fiscally conservative
- White (or not a visible minority)