"So begins the shadow campaign of 2012, in which a new breed of 'super PACs' and other independent groups are poised to spend more money than ever to sway federal elections. The first major ads look as if they came from a regular campaign. But they were produced and aired by groups independent of Obama and his GOP rivals. The rise of these independent groups, which can raise unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions and other wealthy donors and spend it to help their favored candidates, could end up defining the 2012 campaign. But some of the groups could also pose a threat to established campaigns, which may find it difficult to stop them from wandering off message or committing strategic blunders."