Observers credit a spate of attack ads for Newt Gingrich’s recent tumble — and Mitt Romney’s rise — in Iowa polls ahead of the state’s Republican caucus. But where did they come from? Not Romney’s campaign, but rather a PAC staffed by former Romney insiders and empowered by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling to spend as much as it likes to destroy his opponents.

Dissociation from the group allows Romney to avoid the usual backlash inflicted by the use of political attack ads: The public doesn’t immediately connect him with attempts to smear the competition. –ARK

The New York Times:

[N]either Mr. Romney nor his staff has had to lift a finger or spend a dollar to make it happen. In a stark illustration of how last year’s landmark Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance has created powerful new channels for outside money to influence elections, the negative onslaught is the work of a group called Restore Our Future.

The most prominent of the “super PACs,” which can accept unlimited donations for purposes of supporting or attacking candidates, it operates independently of the Romney campaign but under the direction of former Romney aides who do not need to be told what the candidate needs.

… The result: Mr. Romney has effectively outsourced his negative advertising to a group that has raised millions of dollars from his donors to inundate his opponents with attacks — all without breaking the rules that forbid super PACs to explicitly coordinate with candidates. Polls showed Mr. Gingrich’s support in Iowa tumbling immediately after the Restore Our Future ads began running in early December. An NBC News/Marist poll released Friday showed a 19 percentage point increase over the last month, to 35 percent, in the number of likely Republican caucusgoers who said they judged Mr. Gingrich to be unacceptable as the party’s nominee.

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