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The X-factors? Lesser-known super PACs could have big impact in fall congressional races

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While the super PACs supporting presidential candidates have been in the spotlight in the early months of the campaign season, a number of lesser-known -- but potentially as influential -- super PACs are emerging. Filings that came in over the weekend at the Federal Election Commission featured a number of heretofore unsung super PACs, many formed for the purpose of influencing a specific House or Senate election.

Though they are smaller than their presidential counterparts, some of the groups benefit fromt he same big-name donors. While some super PACs are new, others appear to be gearing up for an encore after playing a successful hand in the 2010 elections.

Having spent little or no money in the campaign so far, these super PACs may have a lower profile, but can quickly emerge as important players in key congressional races.

State PACs going federal

Some organizations that started as state level PACs are now showing their might in the federal scene. The Middle Resolution Federal PAC Inc., a right-leaning super PAC, which has been around since 2009, prides itself on getting two Virginia representatives elected in 2010: Morgan Griffith and Robert Hurt, both of whom won close races.

This year the super PAC’s major donors include the founder of the organization, Robert Bailie, a resident of Mechanicsville, Va. --a suburb of Richmond. He propped up the organization with a $250,000 donation. Another $10,000 came from a state PAC of the same name. The state level PAC has donated more than $339,000 to state candidates this year, with the majority of its money coming from Bailie. He did not return Sunlight's calls for comment.

The American Foundations Committee Inc. has spent $366,000 on one race, North Carolina's 13th congressional district. The Raleigh-based super PAC supports George Holding, a former U.S. attorney who was involved in the investigations of former Sen. John Edwards, now on trial for violating campaign finance laws in his efforts to pay off a former mistress, and of former North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley, who pleaded guilty to a campaign finance violation.

American Foundations is buying ads opposing Paul Coble, the other Republican running for a seat currently held by retiring Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C. According to local news reports, Holding’s family, which runs the First Citizens Bank in the area, has donated $500,000 to American Foundations.

Familiar names park their cash in new places

For super PACs that formed earlier this year and file disclosures quarterly, the latest reports provided the first peek at donors. The Now or Never PAC based out of Kansas City, Mo., is bankrolled by major Republican donors who for decades have been leaders of the conservative movement in the state.

While the PAC has yet to spend any money, one of the key donors is Stanley Herzog of Herzog Contracting Corp., who has donated $250,000 earlier this year. Another $100,000 came from Rez Sinquefield, a conservative Missouri philanthropist and retired investor. Herzog, hardly a novice to campaign donations, has given $250,000 to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in January 2012 in advance of his June recall election.

Among well-known super PAC donors, Harold Simmons and James Pitcock are two who have recently given to lesser known PACs. Simmons contributed $500,000 to the Conservative Renewal Politics committee while Pitcock gave $100,000.  It's a super PAC set up help Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, in his bid to win the seat that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, is vacating at the end of the year.