The Karl Rove-linked American Crossroads Super PAC and Crossroads GPS 501(c)(4) organizations have the same president, same spokesman, same mailing address, and same right-wing ideology. Both groups can, thanks to the Citizens United and SpeechNow.org rulings, accept unlimited sums of money from individuals and corporations — a privilege they’ve wielded to raise $100 million for the 2012 cycle alone and to run millions of dollars worth of political television ads. But one key difference separates the two entities: disclosure. While American Crossroads must publicly identify its major contributors, Crossroads GPS does not make the names of any of its donors public.
A Center for Public Integrity analysis of the two groups reveals that of the combined $123 million raised by the two groups in 2010 and 2011, $76.8 million, or 62 percent, was secret money contributed to Crossroads GPS. That money came from fewer than 100 individual donors — meaning an average donation of more than $750,000.
Crossroads GPS has made more than $1.3 million in “electioneering communications” — independent broadcast ads referencing federal candidates, run shortly before an election — since its formation. While the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (commonly known as McCain-Feingold) required that groups identify the donors who pay for these types of ads, a 2007 Federal Election Commission regulation effectively neutered this requirement.
A recent federal court ruling struck down that regulation, but the Commission has yet to implement the ruling and says it may appeal. It is unclear whether this ruling might force groups like Crossroads GPS to disclose their donors, retroactively. But, to this point, citizens have had no way of determining who is really behind these ads.
The combined $123 million raised in two years, it is worth noting, is more than Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) spent on his entire 2008 presidential general election campaign. And in addition, American Crossroads has already raised another $49 million in the first quarter of 2012, giving the Super PAC about $100 million for this cycle, according to Politico. Crossroads GPS only reports its fundraising totals once a year.
With giant corporations and billionaire activists dominating the airwaves and overwhelming the political process, Crossroads and similar organizations continue to show just how wrong the Supreme Court’s 5-4 majority was in thinking “independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”