Stephen Colbert is directly challenging the ruling that demolished the structure of campaign laws built over the last century by attempting to create his own “Super PAC.”
Super PACs are a new form of political action committee that may raise money from any source for “independent expenditures” which advocate the election or defeat of a federal candidate. Corporations and unions must reveal their donors, but non-profits, who are also empowered to spend limitless amounts, are not bound by that requirement. As a result, anyone may set up a non-profit corporation with secret backers to finance a super pac created to push an agenda. A single, wealthy individual may set up one of these groups, and several have. The billionaire Koch brothers, for example, whose wealth comes from the oil and gas industry, spent millions in 2010 to promote the use of petroleum and deny climate change. In 2010, non-profits spent $61.3 million.
Among the findings of the Center for Responsive Politics:
- The percentage of spending coming from groups that do not disclose their donors has risen from 1 percent to 47 percent since the 2006 midterm elections
- 501c non-profit spending increased from zero percent of total spending by outside groups in 2006 to 42 percent in 2010.
- Outside interest groups spent more on election season political advertising than party committees for the first time in at least two decades, besting party committees by about $105 million.
- The amount of independent expenditure and electioneering communication spending by outside groups has quadrupled since 2006.
- Seventy-two percent of political advertising spending by outside groups in 2010 came from sources that were prohibited from spending money in 2006
The Center for Responsive Politics has a slide show of its analysis of the effects of Citizens United v Federal Election Commission.