Super PAC Reporting: Recommended Reading

Because you know you need to get up to speed

Maybe you know someone—a friend—who keeps hearing about Super PACs, knows he should know more about what they are, where they come from, and what they’re doing, but hasn’t quite kept up? You’re in luck, my friend, your friend: There’s been some solid reporting on the topic of late—from news outlets and other resources—much of it prompted by yesterday’s FEC filing deadline (when Super PACs had to disclose information including how much they’ve raised and from whom through the end of 2011).

Below, a suggested reading list for getting up to speed on this Super PAC thing:

One-Stop Shop: Want to learn, in one eye-pleasing place, “Who’s Financing the Super PACS?” offers this infographic showing, for the Super PACs supporting this election cycle’s presidential contenders: the major donors, the share of donations of $25,000 or more, the total raised through the end of 2011, and more (including handy links to the original FEC documents and the PACs’ web sites).
Another well-done campaign finance-related infographic from—kudos to Matthew Ericson, Haeyoun Park, Alicia Parlapiano, and Derek Willis. (The accompanying article by Nicholas Confessore, walking readers through, among other things, “how narrow the gap has become between the candidates and the theoretically independent super PACs,” is also well worth a read).

For the Highlights (Lowlights): Want to catch up on the stuff in yesterday’s disclosure reports that everyone is tweeting about? How much did Steven Spielberg give to the Obama-supporting Super PAC? Which Super PAC raised $1 from both Harry Ballsagna and Frumunda Mabalz? (The same Super PAC that raised $500 from California’s Lieutenant Governor, Gavin Newsom, and outraised Sarah Palin’s Super PAC). See “All the Best From Super-PAC Tuesday,” from Mother Jones’s Andy Kroll, Tim Murphy, Tasneem Raja, and Asawin Suebsaeng.

Wait, What About Sheldon Adelson? Aren’t Adelson and his wife, Miriam, big Super PAC-ers? Why didn’t their names show up in yesterday’s FEC filings or the coverage of same? Politico explains in a piece co-reported, with Robin Bravender, by Dave Levinthal, formerly of the Center for Responsive Politics and its blog, an excellent resource for following the money, including yesterday’s disclosures. (While you’re at Politico, allow reporter Ken Vogel to explain how 2012 is “The Year of the Big Donor.”)

Some Background, Please: Need a historical primer? Don’t know your PAC from your Super PAC—and wouldn’t know a 501(c) if it hit you in the face? See the Sunlight Foundation’s “Nine Things You Need to Know About Super PACs” and “Super PACs, How We Got Here.” Also, their report on yesterday’s filings. (Disclosure: the Sunlight Foundation has supported some of CJR’s past reporting on transparency).

What Now? Election law professor Rick Hasen, at his information-rich electionlawblog, provides “3 Thoughts on Super PACS: What We Now Know (And What We Don’t),” with a focus on what reporters covering this complex topic might be missing and/or misunderstanding.

Seen other good reporting on Super PACs? Please share it in comments.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.