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Super PAC spending: $13 million and counting

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As the voting for the Republican presidential nomination gets underway, super PACs have already emerged as a big factor, spending more than $13 million so far in Iowa and other early-voting states. Yet a growing number of the independent expenditure groups active on behalf of presidential candidates has made moves to ensure that information on their donors will likely remain hidden until votes are cast in three more states.

Four of the biggest spenders—the pro-Romney Restore our Future PAC, the pro-Santorum Red, White & Blue Fund, the pro-Huntsman Our Destiny PAC, and the pro-Gingrich Winning Our Future, recently changed their filing schedules at the FEC so that they will not have to reveal their donors until Jan. 31. On the same day Santorum emerged as a major factor in the race, the Red, White and Blue Fund became the latest super PAC to put off revealing its backers, filing the paperwork Wednesday to change its filing schedule. At least two of those groups would have had to reveal donors by now had they not made the switch.

We have created a handy guide to help track what is known about the 25 Super PACs that have sprung up to support or oppose presidential candidates, some of which have formed as recently as Dec. 27. Each of the five leading candidates in Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses have at least two outside groups behind them. 

Spending by super PACs devoted to helping Mitt Romney, the Iowa winner, accounted for about one-third of the $13.1 million. Restore Our Future PAC, run by Romney’s former aides, has dispensed more than $4 million on mailings and advertisements on the early contests, all focused on opposing Newt Gingrich (some of the ads also attack Rick Perry). Gingrich emerged as a frontrunner in the field and was still polling at 20 percent on Dec. 13. After the barrage of ads, he finished a distant fourth with 13 percent of the votes. Throughout December in Iowa, according to a Campaign Media Analysis Group report provided to ABC News, 45 percent of all TV ads (by the campaigns and independent groups) went against Gingrich.

Another pro-Romney group that had previously said it would promote Michele Bachmann, Citizens for a Working America, spent almost $500,000 in late December on pro-Romney TV advertising in the Hawkeye state.

Rick Santorum, Iowa’s second place finisher, was also boosted by a money binge in the final three weeks before the caucus. Two pro-Santorum Super PACs, including Red, White & Blue Fund, spent about $650,000 in Iowa on his behalf, mostly on positive television ads like this one, touting him as a “true conservative.” 

Ron Paul, who finished a close third in the Iowa race, was also aided by last minute outside spending. One pro-Paul group, Endorse Liberty Inc., which formed just two weeks before the caucuses, has been responsible for all of it, spending just over $600,000 on Internet advertising.

Meanwhile, little is known about the group’s donors. The last time any of the active groups released contributor information was July. 

We're putting together what we do know about the presidential super PACS to profile some of those supporting leading contenders in the race. Our roster so far: