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Concentrated super PAC money grows

Political campaign donations through super PACs are more concentrated than ever. Here, Marty Miller of Sarasota, Fla., sells campaign buttons, hats and bumper stickers during an event for Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich in Golden, Colo.

Kai Ryssdal: In the absence of any high-profile GOP primaries coming up -- apologies to the state of Maine and its caucuses tomorrow -- political eyes are on Washington for today's Conservative Political Action Conference -- CPAC, for short.

Everybody who's anybody in conservative circles is there. But as always in politics, you gotta follow the money. Super PAC money, this year. There are reports today Sheldon and Miriam Adelson aren't going give Newt Gingrich's super PAC any more money. They're not commenting on who they might eventually decide to give to.

Marketplace's Nancy Marshall-Genzer reports on the motivations of big political money.


Nancy Marshall-Genzer: Seems like everybody’s got a super PAC sugar daddy. The Adelson family gave a pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC $11 million.

Rick Santorum’s super PAC raked in hundreds of thousands from billionaire Foster Friess. Friess makes no secret of his support, even introducing Santorum at a big conservative conference today in Washington.

Foster Friess: I want you to give a welcome to the next president of the United States, Rick Santorum.

The main super PAC supporting our current president hasn’t taken in nearly as much as the Republican groups, but it’s just gotten a green light from the president’s campaign. For good government types like Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21, all the super PAC money is a menace.

Fred Wertheimer: You buy influence with huge contributions.

Say you’re one of the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC donors. They’re a bunch of hedge fund guys. Anthony Corrado is a professor of government at Colby College. He says they would love to have a White House ally on a host of hot issues.

Anthony Corrado: Tax reform. Increased tax rates on those in the upper income brackets. Upcoming budget cuts.

Now, so far I’ve only been talking about super PACs. They have to identify their donors. But there are other groups collecting unlimited amounts of anonymous money. Bill Allison tracks them at the Sunlight Foundation.

Bill Allison: These groups are poised to spend tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars influencing the election. And who’s behind it we won’t know.

Although, the political candidates could find out eventually. And, Allison says, be beholden to those anonymous donors, too.

In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall-Genzer for Marketplace.

About the author

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

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