Comedian and political commentator Bill Maher publicly donated $1 million dollars to a super PAC supporting President Obama's re-election Thursday during a live web broadcast of his comedy special, CrazyStupidPolitics: Live from Silicon Valley.
I would like, tonight, to announce a donation to the Obama super PAC, which has the very unfortunate tongue-twister name, Priority USA Action--I know, it was named by Borat, Maher said during the webcast.
But, tonight I would like to give that PAC...one million dollars, he added, lifting an extended pinky finger to the corner of his mouth à la Dr. Evil.
Prior to Maher's contribution, the pro-Obama super PAC, actually called Priorities USA Action, raised approximately $4.5 million, according to OpenSecrets.org. This amount is far exceeded by pro-Mitt Romney super PAC, Restoring Our Future, which has raised $36.8 million, and still less than half as much as pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC, Winning Our Future, which has raised $13.1 million.
Under the controversial 2010 Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Super PACs are allowed to receive unlimited contributions provided that the organizations do not coordinate directly with any of the candidate's they support.
The FEC limits contributions to presidential candidates to $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for standard political action committees (PACs). The Citizens United ruling allows individuals, organizations and corporate entities to donate unlimited amounts of money to any given super PAC, which can use the funds to campaign for or against specific candidates.
President Obama has criticized the ruling and addressed super PACs in his State of the Union address last month.
They (super PACs) can buy millions of dollars worth of TV ads--and worst of all, they don't even have to reveal who's actually paying for the ads. Instead, a group can hide behind a name like 'Citizens for a Better Future,' even if a more accurate name would be 'Companies for Weaker Oversight.' These shadow groups are already forming and building war chests of tens of millions of dollars to influence the fall elections, the President said.
Now, imagine the power this will give special interests over politicians. Corporate lobbyists will be able to tell members of Congress if they don't vote the right way, they will face an onslaught of negative ads in their next campaign. And all too often, no one will actually know who's really behind those ads.
The Center for Responsive Politics, a non-profit research group dedicated to tracking money in U.S. politics, lists all major donors to super PACs through its website OpenSecrets.org. So while these organizations are not yet required to disclose their financial backers in campaign ads, individuals can still seek out the information and find out where the money is really coming from.