Republican strategist Karl Rove has boasted on Fox News that the two organizations he co-created are great places for donors to turn when they have maxed out on giving to Republican committees trying to influence the upcoming elections. The trouble is, one of Rove’s groups, Crossroads GPS, is not supposed to be focused on political activity because of the tax code under which it was set up. Still, both groups, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, are spending like there’s no tomorrow on political ads.
This afternoon, Public Citizen and Protect Our Elections filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission asking the agency to investigate whether Crossroads GPS is breaking numerous campaign finance laws, including failing to register as a political committee, failing to file committee financial disclosure reports and failing to comply with the political committee organizational requirements. (Read the press release.)
Public Citizen President Robert Weissman said:
“American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS are this year’s poster children for everything wrong with our campaign finance system in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “The decision paved the way for unlimited corporate spending on elections, and more generally signaled that Wild West rules now prevail for elections. Yet Crossroads GPS manages to transgress the modest rules still in place, failing to register with the Federal Election Commission as a political committee. We need the FEC to act to redress this apparently wrongful activity. More than that, we need Congress to pass the DISCLOSE Act, so we know which corporations and billionaires are behind the attack ads now polluting our airwaves. We need Congress to pass the Fair Elections Now Act, to replace the private election financing system now poisoning our democracy. And we need a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision and get corporate money out of elections.”
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United has ushered in a flood of corporate money into this year’s election. But rather than seeing direct spending by corporations, companies and wealthy business executives are donating to proxy groups such as Rove’s so they can remain anonymous.
Ironically, the Citizens United ruling, while protecting the rights of corporations to spend freely, also upheld requirements that outside groups spending money on campaigns identify their donors. The FEC, however, has all but ignored campaign spending by independent organizations. Last month, Public Citizen released a report that found only 32 percent of the outside groups spending money on the midterm elections were disclosing their donors, compared to almost 100 percent in 2004.
The problem is that the FEC has been rather busy this year doing things other than enforcing election law. Unfortunately, it’s a mystery what those other things might be.
While we wait on the FEC to review the complaint against Rove and Gellespie, maybe something will come from Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin’s request for the Internal Revenue Service to look into Crossroads GPS’ 501(c)(4) tax status. Steven T. Dennis writes in Roll Call that Durbin asked the IRS to investigate how Crossroads and other organizations are raising and spending money on campaigns this year.