Document Type



Political Science


Prof. Paul Herrnson, Dept. of Political Science


American Politics | Political Science


Super PACs, since their inception in 2010, have played a significant role in federal campaign finance. In 2016 alone, super PACs spent over $1 billion trying to influence elections. In particularly close contests with significant disparities in independent expenditures (the main tool of super PACs), this money can play an important role in the outcome. Despite the prominent role of super PAC money in federal elections, limited research has been conducted on the sources of this money. While speculation about mega-donors, corporations, unions, nonprofits, and shell companies has dominated the news media and political punditry, these sources of funds have yet to receive a rigorous quantitative treatment. Individual contributions to super PACs, which constitute over half of super PAC funds, are particularly under-studied, with the exception of a few extremely large donors. On the flip side of the exchange, the strategies through which super PACs go about raising such funds have been similarly under-researched. This project sought to shed light on both of these areas, relying on data from the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) combined with interviews with seven super PAC officials and legal consultants.