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How much did Super Pac spending help candidates in Iowa?

Iowa 2012 GOP candidates
2012 Republican presidential candidates CBS

There's been a lot written about the unlimited donations that corporations and wealthy donors can now give to the new campaign fundraising vehicle called the "Super PAC". This year super PAC ads hit the Iowa airwaves with gusto touting names like "Winning the Future" and "Our Destiny PAC". So how much did their millions in spending contribute to the final outcome in Iowa? It's a mixed bag, but it appears that spending millions on candidates for the caucuses did not always translate into stronger results.

For example, former Massachusetts Gov.Mitt Romney's victory was powered by $3.4 million in super PAC spending by "Restore Our Future" in Iowa, but former Senator Rick Santorum's super PAC "Red White and Blue Fund" spent only $537,200 yet he still earned a strong second place finish.

Meanwhile Texas Gov. Rick Perry's super PAC "Make Us Great Again" spent $3.7 million on its push for Perry between early November and late December yet the governor earned only 10 percent of the vote.

But Paul Ryan, FEC Program Director at Campaign Legal Center, a Washington-based non-profit, cautions against reading too much into the candidates' performance and the super PAC spending. Ryan is not related to the Republican lawmaker from Wisconsin.

"No amount of money will turn an unpalatable candidate into a palatable candidate," Ryan told CBS News adding, "Who knows what [Perry's] results would have been without that spending?"

Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who finished Iowa with 21 percent of the vote has three super PACs supporting him but only one - "Endorse Liberty, Inc." - actually spent money to support the candidate at $610,542.

Perhaps the candidate most damaged by super PAC spending was former House speaker Newt Gingrich who was often the target of negative ads by Romney's super PAC in the run-up to the caucuses.

The super PACs who supported Gingrich: "Winning Our Future" and "Strong America Now" spent $782,231 and $125,271 respectively. Gingrich finished the caucuses with 13 percent of the vote.

Ryan says the biggest indicator of the value of super PAC spending is that people with money who want influence continue to think it's a good use of their money. And looking to a narrowing field in the next few weeks he says, "It will be interesting to see how the funders realign behind other super PACs."

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