Super PACs (for political action committees), were officially given the OK by the Federal Election Commission in the summer of 2010, a move that has essentially eliminated restrictions on financial contributions. Test your knowledge of Super PACs and their significance here.
PACs are limited to contributing $5,000 per election to any individual candidate and $15,000 to a political party during a calendar year. Furthermore, individuals can give no more than $5,000 to a PAC.
Examples of PACs include the Microsoft PAC, the National Rifle Association PAC and the Teamsters PAC.
Individuals can give no more than $2,500 per election to a candidate and a maximum of $30,800 annually to a national party.
The FEC issued a ruling on July 22, 2010 that gave the green light to Super PACs.
Super PACs, unlike regular PACs, have no restrictions on how much money they can raise from companies, individuals and unions.
Super PACs must remain completely independent from a political campaign.
Super PACs can say what they want, even if the candidate they are supporting repudiates it.
Any person can form a Super PAC, so long as they follow certain disclosure requirements.
The result of the decision the court reached in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case was the elimination of restrictions on corporate giving in politics.
The case was decided by the narrowest of margins, 5 to 4.
Justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, declared that the ruling clarified the First Amendment's protection of freedom of speech.
Conservatives including Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Antonin Scalia and Chief Justice John Roberts all voted in the majority.
Republican-affiliated Super PACs accounted for 55 percent of all expenditures in the 2010 midterms, which saw the GOP retake the majority in the House of Representatives.
Colbert received the go ahead from the FEC in the summer of 2011 to form his Super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow.
The comedian's Super PAC asked GOP voters to throw their weight behind Rick Parry with an "A," not an actual candidate and Governor Rick Perry with an "E."
After the ruling, President Obama called it a victory for big corporations over the interests of regular Americans.
Despite President Obama's opposition to the court ruling allowing Super PACs, supporters of the president have formed Priorities USA Action.
The former President George W. Bush's adviser formed American Crossroads, which spent three times more than any other Super PAC in the 2010 elections.
The Center for Responsive Politics reports in late summer 2011, there were 141 Super PACs, though the number was increasing by about one per week.
There is unanimity amongst political observers that Super PACs will help boost 2012 presidential campaign spending to unprecedented levels.