While browsing our super PAC database in the days leading up to Halloween, Sunlight reporters couldn't help but notice the number of committee names that were creepy–even scary. On the other hand, perhaps it's not so surprising given how many operate in shadowy fashion.
There's a serious point to our Halloween fun: It's hard to figure out the special interests that are trying to buy influence because they are hiding behind anodyne names that mask their true identities. About half of the super PAC's in our database have names that are reminiscent of an America in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. For example:
- Defend Our Homes – Defend Our Homes has raised a little more than $120,000 this election cycle from unions and the liberal group MoveOn.org. It has used most of its money to target Republicans in Congress with negative ads.
- Fight for the Dream – Fight for the Dream is a conservative leaning super PAC with more than $550,000 in contributions. Its top contributors include Pennsylvania-based Rosebud Mining Company and Restore the Dream, Inc. The latter is a mysterious nonprofit that is not required to disclose donors, and is involved in a shady series of transactions, as reported by the Center for Responsive Politics.
- End the Gridlock – This committee has spent a little more than $1.5 million this year targeting Republican Senate candidate Debra Fischer of Nebraska. Fischer appears to be the sole target of this super PAC's negative ad campaign.
- Saving Florida's Future – This group, which has spent more than $160,000 on Florida's Senate race, has used its funds to run negative ads targeting Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla., and promoting his opponent, incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.
- Rebuilding America – This committee, which had raised just over $20,000 in this election cycle, is no longer active. You might say it's playing "dead."
- Restore Our Future – See below for a breakdown on this heavy-hitting committee.
- It's Now or Never – This conservative super PAC seems to have aimed most of its contributions at supporting Republicans in congressional races. Ninety-five percent of its funding comes from its Nevada-based nonprofit partner, not required to disclose donors. Shady.
There are others that sound like scary video games featuring our nation's capital as the adversary:
- ChallengeDC – This group's total contributions top off at $40,000. It supports Barry Hinckley, the Republican challenging Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.
- Sick and Tired of Washington – This committee, whose $75,000 came from just two donors–William Phillips ($50,000), and Donald Foss, CEO of Credit Acceptance, an auto loan company($25,000). Most of the money has gone to consultants and get out the vote efforts.
- America vs Obama – This group has spent more than $82,000 on negative ads targeting President Barack Obama. Its largest donor, Charles Joyce, president of the New York Oil Producers' Association, gave $10,000, but the majority of its contributors have given in amounts of $5,000 or less.
- Pivot Point Washington – Pivot Point Washington is relatively small, having received only $19,000 in total contributions this year. It has used this money to support Romney's campaign.
And then there are some that are just plain uncanny:
- Sam vs. the Machine – This group has spent about $18,000 supporting Pennsylvania Republican Samuel Rohrer in his unsuccessful bid for his party's nomination in the Senate race against Democratic incumbent Bob Casey.
- Wolf PAC – Wolf PAC has received more than $65,000 in contributions of $5,000 or less, but the Los Angeles-based group so far hasn't spent any of its money.
- ICPurple – ICPurple is a super PAC that has spent about $150,000 in support of Independent candidates in California and Maine.
- 9-9-9 Fund – This is Herman Cain's super PAC, and its spent more than $400,000 in support of the former restaurant executive's unsuccessful presidential campaign this year.
- The Lantern Project – This PAC spent about $20,000 in support of California Democrat Debra Bowen's unsuccessful congressional campaign last year.
- America Shining – This left-leaning group has spent just under $800,000 on various congressional races primarily in California. California Republican candidate Ed Royce is the primary target for its negative ads.
When it really comes down to it, the "scariest" super PACs are determined, not by their names, but in the sheer amount of money they are spending influencing our elections. Among the most hair-raising are:
Restore Our Future
Restore Our Future, a committee that has spent more than $125 million to help elect Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, is the top-spending super PAC in our database. Almost 90 percent of its spending has been for negative advertising: about $40 million against Romney's Republican opponents for the nomination and $71 million (as of this posting) for ads opposing Obama.
American Crossroads, which also backs Romney, is the second biggest super PAC, with more than $80 million in political contributions. Some $73 million has been to oppose Obama and other Democrats.
This year's third-largest super PAC supports Obama's reelection bid. Priorities USA's contributions have been geared 100% towards opposing Republican campaigns — mostly Romney's — totalling nearly $56 million in negative ads.
Majority PAC is another left-leaning committee that boasts the fourth-largest political contributions this year, at nearly $35 million. In contrast with the top three, this committee has focused most of its spending on Senate races, rather than on the presidential contest. It supports Democratic candidates.
For more scary super PACs, take a look at Sunlight's Follow the Unlimited Money. Or if you know of any scary super PACs that should be added to our database, e-mail us!