Date of Award

Winter 2014

Project Type


Program or Major

Political Science

Degree Name

Master of Arts

First Advisor

Dante J. Scala

Second Advisor

Andrew E. Smith

Third Advisor

Daniel Bromberg


Independent expenditure-only committees, known as super PACs, have emerged as substantial actors in the electoral arena. They have surpassed every other type of campaign organization in the 2012 election, including political parties, and have become an appealing alternative to traditional political action committees due to their limited restrictions. This study explores the characteristics of the races in which super PACs participated, which allows the researcher to examine the various motives of these new organizations. An analysis of the 2012 congressional election cycle found that super PACs are sensitive to race competitiveness, suggesting they are interested in seat maximization, but not as a primary motivation as it is for political parties. Rather, they follow ideological motives, moving to elect like-minded candidates. Unlike some traditional political action committees, super PACs were not shown to pursue investment motives, where organizations trade campaign resources for the expectation of future reward. We conclude that super PACs are not emerging as substitutes for the party system and are not bound to the same strategic restrictions that define the allocation tactics of parties and political action committees.