This paper explores passive switched capacitor based RF receiver front ends for spectrum sensing. Wideband spectrum sensors remain the most challenging block in the software defined radio hardware design. The use of passive switched capacitors provides a very low power signal conditioning front end that enables parallel digitization and software control and cognitive capabilities in the digital domain. In this paper, existing architectures are reviewed followed by a discussion of high speed passive switched capacitor designs. A passive analog FFT front end design is presented as an example analog conditioning circuit. Design methodology, modeling, and optimization techniques are outlined. Measurements are presented demonstrating a 5 GHz broadband front end that consumes only 4 mW power.