With a healthy lead in the polls and momentum swinging his way, Texas Gov. Rick Perry's campaign is sure to rake in big bucks. But, according to NBC News, a shadow campaign is expected to spend even more. According to the story, "Make Us Great Again," a political action committee helmed by Perry's former chief of staff, plans to spend as much as $55 million in the upcoming GOP primary, an amount that could exceed spending from Perry's official campaign. So long as it doesn't coordinate its campaign with Perry, the so-called "super PAC" can accept unlimited donations from wealthy donors, unlike the campaign itself, which is limited to $2,500 per person.
The plans show how quickly the campaign game is changing. Independent groups wielding influence in presidential politics is nothing new. In 2004, a questioning of his military service record by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth did permanent damage to Democratic nominee John Kerry's chances. But after the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision, which allowed unlimited corporate and union donations to groups that directly support or oppose candidates during an election, their influence is expected to explode. While the Perry super PAC might have the most expansive plans, it is hardly alone. Similar groups have been set up to support the other GOP candidates, and Democrats are planning on using similar groups to support President Obama's re-election bid. It's another reason why the 2012 campaign is likely to be the most expensive in history.
Michael Malbin, executive director of the Campaign Finance Institute, noted that while unlimited donations may allow independent groups to dominate the airwaves, they're less likely to be able to build volunteer organizations to do the door-to-door campaign work that may be crucial to victory, especially if 2012 has a long, drawn-out primary. "People who are going to sign up to volunteer do so for the candidate. It would surprise me if [the super PACs] became so identified with the candidate that they could attract sufficient volunteer loyalty," Malbin says. "If they are so identified with the candidate, then it is exposing all the more the fiction of their independence."