Super PACs are independent committees that can accept donations from anyone. While they can’t support a candidate’s campaign directly, they can create advertising in favor of or against certain candidates. They don’t have to reveal their identity (through various loopholes), and the amount of money they can accept is virtually unlimited. These committees are a relatively new phenomenon in political funding that came about after the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2010 on Citizens United.


When it comes to private funding, there are stricter guidelines that regulate the donation process. For instance, an individual donor can give a maximum of $5,400 ($2,700 for the primary and $2,700 for the general election) to a candidate that is running for federal office. In addition, traditional political action committees are limited in that they cannot receive funding from labor unions and corporations, a restriction that Super PACs do not face.

While Super PACs can provide more money at once because of loopholes and loose regulations, they alone do not provide enough money since they cannot donate the money directly to the campaign committees. For instance, a few of the 2016 presidential candidates relying on Super PAC money had to drop out of the race because they didn’t have enough campaign donations.

2016 Presidential Candidates and Funding

In this election alone, Super PACs have spent nearly 63 million dollars. While money plays an influential role in the American election process, money alone doesn’t directly translate into political success. In this year’s election, Super PACs have given millions to Gov. Chris Christie and Gov. John Kasich, both of whom are badly falling behind in the polls. On the other hand, Donald Trump is leading the Republican nominations even though he has been the target of the most negative spending out of all of them.

Other than Super PACs, how else do candidates receive money? Their other sources of funding can be broken down into three main categories: large individual donors, small donors, and the candidate’s personal fortune.

The main methods in the 2016 race are the Super PACs and campaign committees, but with a variety of other things in between. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are prime examples, as they are dependent mostly on their Super PACs. In addition to Super PACs, Marco Rubio also raised at least $15.8 million through a politically active non-profit group that doesn’t need to disclose its donors. Donald Trump, a well-known billionaire, is relying on a combination of self-funding and small donations. He has contributed at least 1.8 million of his own fortune to his campaign, and 72% of his contributions have come from small donors. On the other end of the spectrum, candidates like Bernie Sanders and Ben Carson are relying on their campaigns which limit donations to $2,500 each. Interestingly, Bernie Sanders is making it an integral part of his campaign and platform that he doesn’t receive any funding from Super PACs. In fact, many of his campaign donations are so small (i.e. under $200) that his donors don’t even have to disclose their information.