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October 28, 2012

POWER GIVERS Corporate titans bankroll key races as restraints loosen on political spending

(Continued)

The other power players highlighted above either declined comment through public relations representatives or could not be reached for comment.

Unlimited spending

The Bay State’s corporate elite may be as divided in their loyalties as the rest of the country during a bitterly partisan election season.

But one common thread uniting both conservative and liberal contributors has been the rise of the super PACs, which have opened the door to unlimited political expenditures by wealthy individuals and corporations.

Set loose by the landmark Supreme Court decision Citizens United, these shadowy political committees are helping reshape the state and national political landscapes this election cycle.

In Citizens United, the high court ruled that government couldn’t ban corporations and unions from making direct political expenditures. A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. later gave even more power to the super PACs, permitting acceptance of unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations and unions.

The only limitation is that such independent expenditure committees can’t coordinate their actions with candidates or directly put money into campaign coffers, Wilmot said. But free to make their case through ads and other venues, super PACs have become a major political force.

The decision allows super wealthy contributors to pump large sums directly into races rather than having to spread the money around to multiple committees and candidates to stay within federal and state contribution limits, which remain in place for individual candidates.

Davis contributions

For local executives looking to dish off big chunks of campaign cash, super PACs have become a favorite vehicle.

Of the $1,104,100 that Davis, the billionaire athletic shoe tycoon with a factory in Lawrence, has contributed this election cycle, a total of $1 million has gone to Restore Our Future, a super PAC backing Mitt Romney.

Davis spread the rest to a range of candidates, mainly Republicans. The roster includes congressional candidates Sean Bielat and Richard Tisei, as well as U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a contender to take over the powerful Senate Finance Committee should Republicans win control of the chamber come November.

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