Super-PAC’s: Would You Like to See Who’s Buying Our 2012 Election?

The 2008 presidential election was the most expensive on record, with candidates, parties, and outside groups dropping $5.3 billion. This year’s contest promises to break that record, due in part to the new rules of political fundraising: Donors can pour unlimited cash into outside-spending groups that can freely boost or attack the candidates of their choice. Which means that wealthy donors who have maxed out on their gifts to candidates or just want a lot more bang for their political buck can write massive checks to any of the new super-PACs that are popping up as proxies for politicians and parties.

Throughout the year, we’ll be keeping tabs on these superdonors (many of them couples who double up or spread out their gifts). As primary season heats up, we’ve tallied the current top 20 political givers based on donation data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Here’s a quick look at how they’re giving, starting with their partisan tilt: 17 out of 20 are giving to Republican or conservative groups and candiates.

And half of the top 20 are major donors to the pro-Mitt Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future:

The full list (don’t worry, I’m sure your vote will have just as much influence on the results of the election and, subsequently, the policies that follow):

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President Obama reverses position on Super PACs

The President has previously been a staunch opponent of so-called “super” PACs because they can spend unlimited amounts of cash to influence elections, but on second thought, Obama would like that Super PAC money after all.  The Commander-in-Chief is doing a 180 and asking top fundraisers to support an independent political action committee backing his reelection. 

Team Obama argued Monday night that it cannot allow for “two sets of rules” in which the GOP presidential nominee benefits from “unlimited spending and Democrats unilaterally disarm.”

CHEAT SHEET: WHAT’S A SUPER PAC?

Obama’s campaign encouraged top donors in a conference call to donate to Priorities USA, a super PAC spearheaded by two of the President’s former aides.

A huge disparity was revealed earlier this month when Super PAC financial filings were made public. The Republican’s American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS — groups affiliated with George W. Bush architect Karl Rove — reported a jaw-dropping $51 million last year.

That’s in comparison to major Democratic groups, which collected $19 million during the same timeframe.

"We decided to do this because we can’t afford for the work you’re doing in your communities, and the grassroots donations you give to support it, to be destroyed by hundreds of millions of dollars in negative ads," the President’s campaign manager Jim Messina wrote in an e-mail to supporters.

Republicans immediately seized on President Obama’s reversal, calling the move “hypocritical.”

"This is a brazenly cynical move by Barack Obama and his political handlers, who just a year ago had the chutzpah to call outside groups a threat to democracy," Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for American Crossroads, told The Associated Press.