2012: Reviewing the year of the super PAC

Ballots for the 2012 national election lie on a table. A record amount of money was spent on the 2012 election by big donors and super PACs. So, can we expect more big money the next election cycle?

Before the fiscal cliff became the big story in Washington, there was the big 2012 election and the birth of the super PAC. Marketplace's Nancy Marshall-Genzer covered the election for us, and joins host Jeremy Hobson to discuss the influence that big money has had on our politics.

Perhaps nobody represents the year of the super PAC more than casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, who spent about $93 million together on the 2012 election in support of various Republican candidates (Adelson may have actually spent more, but because certain groups don't have to disclose their donors, we may never know the exact amount). Still, despite all the money poured into the election, some of the biggest donors supported candidates and causes that didn't do very well.

"The biggest donors contributed toward Republican candidates," says Marshall-Genzer. "So in that respect, no, they didn't have a very good rate of return. Adelson, for example, gave money directly to nine candidates. Only one of them won."

So if Adelson and other big donors weren't as successful as they thought they would be, will they contribute just as big in the next election?

"The money is not going anywhere," says Marshall-Genzer. "Adelson says yeah, he's going to be back. He says he's a gambling man. He owns casinos after all, that's how he's made his money. He says he doesn't cry when he loses because there's always a new hand coming up. That seems to be the big donors' philosophy when it comes to politics."

And Marshall-Genzer says that big donors like Adelson aren't just limiting themselves to backing or opposing candidates. They are also interested in issues. Adelson is especially interested in the various ballot initiatives and legislation on organized labor, including the new right-to-work law in Michigan.

"The big donors will be back, but the voters are hopefully still going to be paying attention and maybe being a little bit resentful of all this money being thrown around," says Marshall-Genzer.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

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