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Campaign Finance: PACs and SuperPACs

45 min

Essential Question 

  • Does free speech include how an individual or corporation spend their money? 

 Guiding Questions 

  • How has the federal government legislated and ruled on campaign finance?  
  • What are the different types of political action committees (PACs)? 
  • How do PACs and SuperPACs compare? 


  • Students will be able to explain how the financing of national political campaigns affects the election process.  



Student Resources: 

Facilitation Notes 

  • This lesson focuses on campaign finance not campaign organization and strategies. 


Depending on the grade level and prior knowledge of your students, select from the following “bell ringer” or warmup questions to get students started: 

  • Who pays for a candidate to run for office? 
  • Why would laws for donating money to candidates for political office be in place? Why might those laws be controversial? 
    • Answers will vary but guide the discussion around how much money is spent on campaigns, and most often the people running for office need/want others to help fund their campaigns. The amount of money spent has led some to question the need for regulations. Spending money has been equated to free speech which is where the controversies arise.  

Transition: Let students know that today they will be looking into campaign finance decisions which include federal legislation and Supreme Court decisions. Remind students that running for office, especially at the federal level, is significantly expensive (considerations include if a candidate is running for the first time, running against a popular incumbent, running unopposed, etc. which can all affect the cost of a campaign.) Groups called political action committees are responsible for a lot of the funds that go into campaigning.  

  • If teaching the lesson around the time of a highly contested congressional or presidential election, teachers may choose to discuss the money spent on that specific election to illustrate the substantial amounts of money involved in campaigns.  


Scaffolding note: Teachers are encouraged to choose what works best for their class when watching the video and completing the graphic organizer. It can be completed as a whole group, in small groups, or individually, as pausing, rewatching, and captioning might be necessary.  

  • Display, print, or post for students the PACs and SuperPACs reading to complete the second section of the graphic organizer.

Assess & Reflect 

 Assessment can focus on the following: 

  • Graphic Organizers can be collected, reviewed, and assessed as preferred 
  • Class discussion, be sure to call on members of each group depending on how divided 
  • The guiding questions may be asked of students during the lesson or as an “exit slip” per teacher preference.  


  • If desired,  have students research public support or opposition of  a specific PAC or SuperPAC that is active in their area, or one they feel strongly about 


Student Handouts