As we enter the final stages of the 2012 presidential election, the campaign finance landscape has changed considerably from past elections. While a few of the rules remain the same, the opportunity for the very wealthy — including corporations and labor unions — to play a dominant role has increased exponentially. Individuals are still limited to donating $2,500 per election, and corporations and unions are still forbidden to donate directly to candidates (although that prohibition may well be the next shoe the Supreme Court drops). Unions and corporations can still sponsor political action committees, which can accept contributions up to $5,000 a year from a union’s members or a corporation’s shareholders and executives. And those PACs can still donate a maximum of $5,000 to a candidate in each election cycle. But those PACs are now totally overshadowed as political funders in the post-Citizens United era. The landscape has changed in two fundamental ways.
First, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling now allows corporations and labor unions to spend money from their treasuries to urge voters to support or oppose specific candidates. This may actually benefit unions more, since many corporations do not want to offend customers who disagree with their choices. However, corporations, which have far more cash than unions (as well as publicity-reticent millionaires), can conceal their contributions to the new super PACs by sending funds through nonprofit groups with innocent-sounding names.
Second, there are the super PACs themselves. Super PACs result from the marriage of Citizens United with an appeals court decision called SpeechNow, abetted by two Federal Election Commission advisory opinions. Here, it gets a bit complicated.
Full Article: Deciphering super PAC double-speak | NJ.com.