I created a visualization using Federal Election Commission data. Here are the top five super PACs who contributed the most during 2011~2012. The super PACs are: Restore Our Future, Republican National Committee, Priorities USA Action, DNC Service Corporation, and Winning Our Future. The height of the bar shows the total contribution (in terms of dollars) made by a super PAC. The blue part of a bar denotes contribution made to a democrat candidate. The red part of a bar denotes a super PAC's contribution to a republican candidate. Now, I was surprised to see that both Restore Our Future and Republican National Committee contributed to both democrats and republicans. Is my visualization wrong or is there some stories here I didn't know?
I'm pretty sure you have a flaw in your data. This is what I get when I search for "Restore our Future" on this page:
To me, that looks like you're failing to account for the "Oppose" value in the "Support/Oppose" column. They spent millions on opposing Obama, but that still counts as spending money on him for filing purposes. You can't just flip the result, though, because slightly further down they have spending against the Republican Newt Gingrich. Better to break the data down into the four combinations:
- Support / Republican -> Solid red
- Support / Democrat -> Solid blue
- Oppose / Republican -> Striped red
- Oppose / Democrat -> Striped blue
As to the title question of whether a Super PAC can give to both sides, there is nothing to prevent them from doing so. The only restriction on how Super PACs spend their money is that they may only make Independent Expenditures:
An independent expenditure, in elections in the United States, is a political campaign communication that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate that is not made in cooperation, consultation or concert with or at the request or suggestion of a candidate, candidate’s authorized committee or a political party.
Additionally, these Independent Expenditures can't be contributions directly to a candidate. (Further reading) (I assume in your question when you say contribution you actually mean expenditure on behalf of, since direct contributions aren't allowed.)
There would be little point in both supporting and opposing the same candidate, but nothing stops a single-issue SuperPAC from supporting anyone who espouses their views and opposing their opponents, regardless of affiliation.
It's called "hedging your bets" and is a common strategy amongst issue-related PACs.
Imagine, for example, if you are the NRA. You care about about guns, not parties.
Contributions are often the "price of admission" to see a member of Congress, but there are rules against any sort of quid pro quo. In seeking to lobby a member - even one with whom you disagree - creating events where the member can solicit contributions is a normal practice.
Supplying significant funding to an even marginally "on-board" member creates a situation where the funder now has the ability to later curtail funds or threaten to support another candidate. Thus there is almost always an incentive to fund all but your most vocal critics.