The age of the “super PAC” is officially upon us: the organizations have been on the rise since 2010, but now the folks at Merriam-Webster have decided to include “super PAC” as a new term in their online unabridged dictionary.
The entry reads:
Super PAC, noun: a type of political action committee that is legally permitted to raise and spend larger amounts of money than the amounts allowed for a conventional PAC; specifically: an independent PAC that can accept unlimited contributions from individuals and organizations (such as corporations and labor unions) and spend unlimited amounts in support of a candidate but that cannot directly contribute money to or work directly in concert with the candidate it is supporting
The term was first coined by journalist Eliza Newlin Carney at CQ Roll Call in June of 2010–the same year the Supreme Court made its Citizens United decision that opened the door for super PACs to “accept unlimited contributions and make unlimited expenditures aimed at electing or defeating federal candidates.”
The term has obviously caught on. Check out this chart of Google searches for the term “super PAC” since 2004. Searches spiked in January of 2012 with the Republican primary races gaining steam in Iowa and New Hampshire: