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UW Election Eye 2012

Campaign 2012 through the eyes of UW faculty and students

Topic: Adelson

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January 23, 2012 at 10:24 PM

Super PACs, Newt, and $5 Million More [updated with transcript]

Newt Gingrich prepares to deliver his victory speech in Columbia, SC on Saturday night.

Updated with full transcript.

On the night of the South Carolina primary, as Newt Gingrich was giving his victory speech at a downtown hotel in the state’s capital city, Columbia, Rick Tyler walked into the lobby of the hotel in which I was staying. It’s not a fancy hotel so I was a bit surprised.

Tyler heads the Gingrich-supporting Super PAC, Winning Our Future.

As Tyler walked past I said loudly that I had just watched him on MSNBC discussing Gingrich’s surprising win. He stopped and came over. I introduced myself and we talked for a few minutes. He was heading up to his room to get his bags en route to leaving for Florida, the next state in the primary race.

I asked if he would do an interview. He agreed. He said some interesting and surprising things.

That evening with the help of UW Election Eye colleagues Alex Stonehill and Anita Verna Crofts, we posted a video of a short portion of that interview here. But there was much more than those 5 minutes, and below is the audio of the full interview. The full transcript will be posted tomorrow.

Tyler’s words are particularly meaningful at this exact moment.

Presidential Super PACs are organizations that support specific political candidates and run advertising in support of them or against opponents, but are legally bound to not communicate with the candidates or their campaigns. What makes Super PACs so important, in the words of opensecrets.com, is that they “may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates.”

Unlimited sums.

Today, for example, Newt Gingrich’s super PAC received a $5 million commitment from one person. This is the second $5 million commitment from the same married couple in the last three weeks for Gingrich’s super PAC, Winning Our Future. Tyler decides how this money is used.

In Iowa, Mitt Romney’s Super PAC — known as Restore Our Future — spent $3.4 million, most of it in negative ads targeting Gingrich, while Winning Our Future spent $700,000. This was a 5-to-1 margin on Romney’s behalf; Romney nearly won the Iowa caucuses, while Gingrich finished a distant fourth. Romney then coasted to victory in New Hampshire, with Gingrich finishing fifth.

But in South Carolina, Winning Our Future had the money to create and promote a 28-minute documentary-style film critical of Romney’s work at Bain Capital. The two candidates’ super PACs were nearly even in dollars spent in the Palmetto State.

With this as a backdrop, coupled with some defining debate performances for Gingrich (effective) and Romney (stumbling), Gingrich rallied for a 12-point defeat of Romney in South Carolina. The new infusion of money may allow the Gingrich campaign to run even with Romney’s super PAC in Florida.

Super PACs have super impact, bottom line.

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Comments | Topics: Adelson, Election 2012, Gingrich