What Is a Super PAC? A Short History

When comedian Stephen Colbert founded his satirical "Americans For A Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow" Super PAC last year, then decided to "run for President of South Carolina," he was forced by law to pass off control -- which he did, to his Comedy Central colleague Jon Stewart. Stewart re-named it "The Definitely Not Coordinating With Stephen Colbert Super PAC" and issued a statement assuring the public, "Stephen and I have in no way have worked out a series of morse-code blinks to convey information with each other on our respective shows."

As of this hour, there are 593 registered Super PACs, advocating everything from fat old men to hungry young zombies. More notably, there is Priorities USA, which supports President Obama and has spent nearly $18 million (as of June 30) to further his cause since being co-founded by former White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton.

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On Mitt Romney's side is Restore Our Future, by far the biggest Super PAC, according to the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation. Restore Future has taken in more than $82 million and spent a reported $61,985,504.82. The organization is run by a board including former Romney political director, Carl Forti (who, it should be noted, also helps run Crossroads USA, Karl Rove's big-spending Super PAC).

In all, Super PACs during this maiden campaign cycle have collected more than $316 million, issuing expenditures of $181,217,664.69. With a little less than three months until Election Day, expect those numbers to keep on rising.

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