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The Week in Strange and Small Super PACs: Not-So-Small Edition

Playtime’s over. This week’s roundup of new Congressional and Senate super PACs includes big spenders and big names, like former Newt Gingrich benefactor Sheldon Adelson; Harold Simmons, one of this election cycle’s top donors; a key financier of Jon Huntsman’s presidential super PAC; and Citizens United lawyer James Bopp.

Freedom PAC

Supports Rep. Connie Mack (R), Florida U.S. Senate candidate

Freedom PAC hadn’t even existed for two weeks before it dumped a moderate $50,000 into ads for Florida Senate hopeful Connie Mack. And there’s plenty more where that came from. Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate who was the money behind Newt Gingrich’s endless run for the presidency, has given this super PAC $1 million—nothing to sneeze at. For comparison, Connie Mack’s campaign has raised about $3 million; the incumbent, Bill Nelson, has raised almost $14 million, according to OpenSecrets.

As super PACs go, Freedom PAC’s donor list is pretty star-studded. A donation of $50,000 was made on behalf of The Villages, a sprawling retirement community owned by real estate tycoon H. Gary Morse. A corporation run by Harlan Crow, a Texas real estate man, gave $20,000. Corporate raider Harold Simmons and former San Francisco Giants President Peter Magowan gave an additional $6,000. The donors have picked the perfect race in which to wield their dollars. Senator Nelson is vulnerable, and many see this race as a bellwether for Obama’s performance in Florida.

Congressional Elections PAC

Opposes Rep. Diane Black (R), Tennessee Congressional candidate

This super PAC has raised $80,000 all from a single source, the Campaign for Primary Accountability—itself a super PAC dedicated to opposing incumbents in safe districts. It spent $45,000 in ads attacking her. But Black is not much of an incumbent: she won her seat just two years ago in a narrow, bitter primary and faces the same viable Republican challenger as in 2010. (Black was, however, one of two freshman selected to serve on the Ways and Means Committee.) And her opponent, Lou Ann Zelenik, is not exactly without friends: an anti-Muslim activist allied with Zelenik has raised more than $100,000 to spend on ads attacking Black before the August 2 primary.

National Horizon

Supports Matt Salmon (R), Arizona Congressional candidate

A well-financed super PAC allied with Arizona’s Matt Salmon, National Horizon has raised more than $200,000. It joins a crowded field (Salmon has been endorsed by Club For Growth) last week when it spent a small sum, $29,000, on producing and airing this run-of-the-mill comparison ad featuring Salmon’s opponent, Kirk Adams. Financiers of the PAC include Arizona-based Plastic Products, Inc., and Boyden Gray, one of the top donors to Jon Huntsman’s presidential super PACs (and, full disclosure, the father of TNR staff writer Eliza Gray).

Republican Super PAC

Supports Arthur B. Robinson (R), Oregon Congressional candidate

Funny thing about super PAC filing deadlines: A quirk in the FEC’s rules occasionally allows super PAC managers to raise and spend thousands before they are even required to disclose who their donors are. That’s why Republican Super PAC has spent $9,240 on radio ads in support of Arthur B. Robinson, having only raised an apparent $1,500 or so. Robinson is running against Peter DeFazio, who defeated his son, Matt Robinson, in his primary.

Robinson, a climate change skeptic, helped organize an infamous petition for scientists who doubt global warming. After his 2010 loss to DeFazio, he accused Oregon State University of retaliating against him by withholding PhDs in nuclear engineering from three of his children. The PAC’s treasurer is James Bopp, Jr.—the architect of the Citizens United legal challenge that helped make super PACs possible.