WASHINGTON -- Super PACs had their biggest fundraising month ever in June when they raised a combined total exceeding $54 million. In total, super PACs have raised $298 million in the 2012 election cycle, with the vast majority coming from mega-donors giving at least $500,000.
Seventy percent of all contributions to super PACs in the 2012 election cycle have come from donors giving $500,000 or more. They are led by billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, whose family has combined to give $37.75 million to super PACs through June.
Super PACs were created after two court rulings -- most notably the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision -- freed corporations, unions and individuals to pool unlimited contributions into independent groups that will spend money in elections. Their creation has dramatically changed the face of campaign finance as some of the wealthiest Americans can now spend unlimited sums to elect their favored candidates.
While super PACs are meant to be independent, many groups have popped up at the presidential and congressional level to support individual candidates. These groups accounted for approximately half of fundraising among groups filing their monthly reports covering the month of June and those filing second quarter reports covering the second three months of 2012. (Super PACs can choose to file on a monthly or quarterly basis.)
Leading the way was the pro-Mitt Romney Restore Our Future, which raised more than $20 million in June largely thanks to a $10 million contribution from Adelson. The pro-Barack Obama Priorities USA Action took in $6.1 million. In Texas, two super PACs supporting the Senate bid of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst raised a combined $2.8 million from April through June.
Helping to fund super PACs were the 112 mega-donors, or related groups of donors, giving more than $500,000. Of those 112, twenty-six include members of the elite Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans.
The Huffington Post has collected a list of these mega-donors since reports covering the month of January were released. There were seventeen new donors, or groups of donors, giving more than $500,000 after accounting for disclosures filed in July.
(See the slideshow below for a full list of all 112 $500,000-plus super PAC mega-donors.)
For the first time, Democratic mega-donors accounted for the majority of new members of the $500,000-plus club. Ten of the seventeen newly added $500,000-plus donors gave to groups supporting Democrats. They included Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs, hedge fund investor and right-wing boogie man George Soros, Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman, Hollywood producer Haim Saban, architect Jon Stryker, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, health IT executive Paul Egerman, Working Assets Funding Service, publisher and author Win McCormack and technology executive Stephen Silberstein.
Perhaps the most noteworthy names on the list are Soros and Saban, both well-known for their previous support of independent groups backing Democrats for election. Soros has questioned contributions to super PACs, stating that he does not want to contribute to attack ads. His debut in the $500,00-plus category comes after a $1 million contribution to American Bridge 21st Century, which does not run attack ads, but provides the opposition research that helps other super PACs craft theirs.
Saban's $1 million contribution to a joint fundraising account giving money to Priorities USA Action and the pro-Democratic groups House Majority PAC and Majority PAC comes after he waffled on giving in 2012 due to his disappointment in the president's policies towards Israel.
The biggest new name among Republicans in June was John Childs, the Texas investor who has given big contributions to independent groups in the past. Childs makes his debut in the $500,000-plus club after giving $1.5 million to GOP-aligned super PACs in June.
For Republican-supporting super PACs, the biggest boost didn't come from new donors, but from the tried and true. Reports filed in July showed Adelson and his wife pumping another $16.75 million into super PACs. Texas homebuilder Bob Perry nearly doubled his giving by adding $5.1 million to his previous $6.8 million, making him the third super PAC donor to cross into eight-digit giving.
There has also been a big increase in donors giving more than $1 million. Through June, there were 69 $1 million-plus super PAC donors. That's up from 47 in March, after the previous quarterly filings were disclosed.
Aaron Bycoffe contributed reporting for this article.
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