October 6, 2011 | Chase Davis
Dozens of wealthy donors, including some Californians, contributed nearly $9 million to super PACs supporting President Barack Obama and Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney through the first half of this year – many times what they are allowed to legally give the candidates directly.
An analysis released this week by Democracy 21, the Campaign Legal Center and the Center for Responsive Politics suggests that key supporters of each candidate’s campaign have used the super PACs to greatly exceed the comparatively modest amounts they are allowed to give each candidate directly under federal law.
Political soft money, such as donations to political action committees and ideological groups, has long been criticized for essentially rendering campaign contribution limits obsolete. But with the advent of so-called super PACs and politically oriented nonprofits, donors now have unparalleled abilities to give almost unlimited amounts to help a favored candidate.
Under new campaign contribution limits established this year, a donor is allowed to give $2,500 directly to a presidential candidate for the primary and another $2,500 for the general election. Add in contributions to political parties and conventional political committees, and a donor can legally give $117,000 in regulated political contributions every two years.
But super PACs, groups designed to spend primarily on advertising that were made possible by a series of judicial decisions last year, are not subject to such limits.
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