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Super PACs make this election most expensive in history

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Gainesville retiree Jane Hiers has been volunteering for political campaigns since the 1940 presidential election, when was an 11-year-old in Virginia.

“I’m retired from being a community meddler,” she joked. “I thought I nailed my uniform to the wall, but every now and then I find myself grabbing for it.”

Click to see a timeline of the legal rulings and campaign reform acts that led to unlimited Super PAC contributions.

Now that she’s not able to go door-to-door for candidates she supports, Hiers remains politically involved by donating to Emily’s List, a political action committee.

Emily’s List accepts donations of less than $2,500 per candidate to fund pro-choice, Democratic women win offices. Every candidate the committee has supported in the 2012 election has been a woman running for a House of Representatives or Senate seat.

Hiers is dismayed that this year’s $6 billion presidential election is the most expensive in history.

“I think it’s absolutely obscene,” she said.

A contributor to high election costs is the rise of Super PACs, which are special political action committees that have been allowed since July of 2010.

The Supreme Court capped individual campaign donations at $2,500, but Super PACs can spend unlimited amounts on advertisements for political candidates.

Campaign finance teams understand donations limits and how to circumvent them, said Daniel Smith, a University of Florida political science professor and elections expert.

Less than five percent of people will donate to political campaigns, he said.

Super PACS have raised a collective $662 million for this election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Super PACs, Smith said, are not accountable to anyone.

Katherine Hahn wrote this story online. 

About Ethan Magoc

Ethan is a journalist at WUFT News. He's a Pennsylvania native who found a home reporting Florida's stories. Reach him by emailing emagoc@wuft.org or calling 352-294-1525.

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