Do candidate-specific super PACs pose a greater threat of corruption to democracy than multi-candidate super PACs, Federal Election Commission Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub asked Friday at a Willamette Law School symposium on political money and influence. The answer, Weintraub said in response to her own question, “could be yes. I would probably define corruption a little more broadly than the Supreme Court does,” Weintraub added. Ahead of last year’s elections, candidate-specific super PACs proliferated. President Barack Obama’s allies, for instance, created Priorities USA Action, while GOP operatives launched Restore Our Future to support the presidential ambitions of Republican Mitt Romney.
In fact, every candidate during the Republican presidential primary was aided by at least one super PAC active on his or her behalf. Many times, one wealthy donor, or a small group of wealthy funders, provided the bulk of the money these groups raised.
Dozens of single-candidate-focused super PACs are currently registered with the FEC, and Weintraub, a Democrat, told the crowd at the Willamette Law School that these days candidates are asking, “Who are we going to get to start our super PACs?”
Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, notably combined to provide $20 million of the $23.9 million that the super PAC Winning Our Future raised through March. Other relatives of Adelson were responsible for an additional $1.5 million to Winning Our Future.
That group helped keep afloat the candidacy of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who personally thanked the Adelsons for their financial support when he dropped out of the race.