Candidates and the Totally Unrelated Super-PACs That Love Them

The only thing breaking coordination rules here is Stephen Colbert's outfit.Pete Marovich/

“God bless you all! And God bless Citizens United!”

So roared a beaming Stephen Colbert, arms spread wide, on his show a week ago. He’d just handed over control of his super-PAC to his Comedy Central colleague Jon Stewart—just in time to unveil an exploratory committee to run for “president of the United States of South Carolina.” Colbert, of course, won’t succeed in his comical presidential bid. But the latest stunt in his long-running super-PAC gag intentionally laid bare what campaign-finance advocate Fred Wertheimer calls “the campaign finance scandal of the 2012 elections.”

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision nearly two years ago, super-PACs can raise and spend unlimited sums of money to support or attack candidates, but with one catch: They can’t coordinate with the candidates they’re backing. In other words, Colbert can’t tell Stewart how to run the pro-Colbert super-PAC. But is Stewart really running the PAC independently of his friend and coworker? Who knows, and besides, the rule is virtually impossible to enforce. To rub in the ridiculousness, Stewart said he’d rename his new super-PAC “The Definitely Not Coordinating With Stephen Colbert Super-PAC.” Hyuk, hyuk.

Real presidential super-PACs appear to be in on the joke. Below, 10 super-PACs run by operatives with remarkably close ties to the candidates they’re “independently” supporting:

Restore Our Future (pro-Mitt Romney)
Carl Forti: political director of Romney 2008 campaign
Charles Spies: CFO and counsel of Romney 2008 campaign
Larry McCarthy: media adviser of Romney 2008 campaign

Priorities USA Action (pro-Barack Obama)
Sean Sweeney: former Obama White House aide
Bill Burton: former White House deputy press secretary

Winning Our Future (pro-Newt Gingrich)
Rick Tyler: former Gingrich spokesman and aide
Becky Burkett: former chief fundraiser for Gingrich’s American Solutions for Winning the Future

Solutions 2012 (pro-Gingrich)
Charlie Smith: former aide

Revolution PAC (pro-Ron Paul)
Joe Becker: chief legal counsel to Ron Paul 2008 campaign
Penny Langford Freeman: political consultant and Paul’s political director from 1998 to 2007

Our Destiny (pro-Jon Huntsman)
Jon Huntsman Sr.: his dad
Tom Loeffler: former senior adviser for Huntsman 2012 campaign
Fred Davis: former adviser for Huntsman 2012 campaign
Gary N. Reger: attorney for Huntsman Corporation, friend of Jon Huntsman Sr.

Make Us Great Again (pro-Rick Perry)
Mike Toomey: former Perry chief of staff and longtime friend; co-owns a private island in New Hampshire with Perry campaign manager Dave Carney
Brint Ryan: longtime Perry donor

Veterans for Rick Perry/Jobs for Vets Fund
Dan Shelley: former Perry legislative aide

Americans for Rick Perry
Bob Schuman: former consultant for Perry mentor Phil Gramm

More MotherJones reporting on Dark Money


as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot. That's what Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein tackles in her annual December column—"Billionaires Are Not the Answer"—about the state of journalism and our plans for the year ahead.

We can't afford to let independent reporting depend on the goodwill of the superrich: Please help Mother Jones build an alternative to oligarchy that is funded by and answerable to its readers. Please join us with a tax-deductible, year-end donation so we can keep going after the big stories without fear, favor, or false equivalency.


as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot.

Please read our annual column about the state of journalism and Mother Jones' plans for the year ahead, and help us build an alternative to oligarchy by supporting our people-powered journalism with a year-end gift today.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.