WASHINGTON - As former secretary of state Hillary Clinton weighs a run for president in 2016, at least a dozen independent groups, from the serious to the mysterious, have sprung up to raise money in her name.
Sporting names such as Madam Hillary 2016, HillaryFTW and other variations on Clinton's name, the new crop of political action committees (PACs) is a sign of the 66-year-old's enduring star power more than 20 years after she first became a national figure as the wife of President Bill Clinton.
Some of the groups hope to emulate the success of Ready for Hillary, the organisation of well-connected Democrats that already has raised millions of dollars to encourage Hillary Clinton to launch a bid to become the United States' first woman president.
Others don't have much to show for their efforts. A few won't say what they plan to do with any money they raise.
The groups illustrate the Wild West landscape of political finance four years after the US Supreme Court ruled that independent groups can raise and spend as much as they want on elections, as long as they don't work directly with a candidate.
In the 2012 election, the dozens of "Super PACs" and nonprofit groups that popped up to take advantage of that decision largely were run by political insiders such as former White House aide Karl Rove, whose American Crossroads PAC spent more than $100 million to help Republicans that year.
This time around, Super PACs also have become a tool for ambitious citizens who in previous elections might have simply opted for a yard sign.
Anyone can file the paper work with the Federal Election Commission to set up a Super PAC, and such groups can spend whatever money they raise however they wish. That means it's up to donors to do their homework before writing a check, election-law specialists say. "It would be legal under campaign-finance laws to buy a yacht and sail off into the sunset," Paul S. Ryan, an election-law specialist at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, said of the lack of restrictions on PACs and nonprofit groups.