Political action committees, private groups organized to advance a political cause or candidate, are nothing new.
But the 2012 election will be the first with another animal in the political jungle-- the super PAC. Unlike traditional PACs, super PACs have no limits on the amount they can donate to campaigns.
They came into being after the Supreme Court ruled that corporations, unions and individuals can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to support or criticize candidates.
The one caveat is that Super PACs cannot coordinate directly with a candidate's campaign organization.
But critics of Super PACs say that campaigns, which are limited in how much money they can raise, are simply sending operatives across the street to set up Super PACs to raise unrestricted money.
Some Super PACs are actually run by former campaign coordinators, and candidates can even fundraise for Super PACs.
"Everyone now agrees that the coordination is a very thin line here between the candidates and the Super PACs that are promoting them," Sheila Krumholz of the Center for Responsive Politics told Here & Now's Robin Young.
The result, say campaign finance watchdogs, is that we are likely to see as much as a billion dollars spent by Super PACs to determine the outcome of the 2012 elections.
- OpenSecrets: List Of Super PACs Registered For 2012
- Sheila Krumholz, executive director at the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-profit that keeps tabs on the money flowing in and out of political campaigns on the website, OpenSecrets.org
This segment aired on December 6, 2011.