Jairo Mejia

The U.S. presidential election in 2012 has become a multimillion-dollar battle armed with stacks of cash invested by organizations like the Super PACs, an unlimited source of money for mounting attacks on politicians of the opposite party.

The November presidential election will be the first in which the rivals will have the indirect but essential support of the so-called Super PACs, unleashed in July 2010 by a Supreme Court ruling that eliminated any limits on funds used by Political Action Committees, or PACs.

The Super PACS, which can collect billions of dollars, are independent in character and cannot give direct financial support to a particular candidate, although they can do battle on behalf of a candidate in the very powerful realm of ideas.

"Money has a strong impact on elections, but it's not the only variable - the voters will have the last word," according to Jonathan Collegio, communications director of American Crossroads, one of the biggest Super PACs and a backer of Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

President Barack Obama, whom surveys place in a virtual tie with Romney, has called these organizations "a threat to democracy," though recently, seeing the treasure they can amass, he changed his tune and accepted the support of the Priorities USA Super PAC.

Obama knows that to neutralize the effect of the immense flood of money the Republicans are taking in, he will have to to play by the same rules, according to the Priorities USA cofounder Bill Burton, a former spokesman for the president.

The Supreme Court's "Citizens United" ruling means that the money of corporations and the very rich is pouring into politics in a volume never seen before, Burton said in criticizing the Republican PACs, which are much more numerous than the Democrats have.

On Obama's side, Priorities USA, which has attacked Romney for his record as an investor, also receives donations from great fortunes, like those in Hollywood, and from big labor unions.

The rules are the same for everyone, Burton said, but on the Republican side the influence of money and rich friends is pervasive. If the oil industry wants to attack Obama, it puts up $1 million to take care of the job - and that's perfectly legal.

Obama has promised that once reelected he will put an end the Super PACs' lack of regulation and transparency, which in Burton's opinion has led to more and more negative messages.

The amount of money spent up to now by Super PACs is more than $100 million, a sum that will multiply rapidly as the elections draw nearer and after Romney is officially confirmed as Obama's rival.

"A Super PAC works better and is able to draw in more money when it's on the side of the opposition," said Collegio, whose organization includes Karl Rove, the architect of the campaign that brought George W. Bush to the presidency.

"American Crossroads pays for advertisements and investigations to expose Obama's mistakes, and though we're backing Romney, we don't coordinate with him and we can't have any relations with the organizers of Romney's campaign," Collegio said.

"It's very hard to deny the legitimacy of the Super PACs...but these organization will continue to operate in the future," Collegio said about the possibility that once reelected, Obama will try to limit the activities of Political Action Committees.

Both on the Republican and Democratic sides, the importance of these multimillion-dollar campaigns is unquestioned, though it has been shown in the past that having the biggest haul of campaign funding does not guarantee the key to the White House. EFE