Last week, the Federal Election Commission announced retroactively that effective March 30, 2002 all outside groups running “electioneering communications” — independent ads run within 30 days of federal primaries or nominating conventions or within 60 days of federal general elections that mention candidates but do not expressly advocate for or against them — must identify all donors contributing over $1,000 bankrolling their efforts. But Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS is taking advantage of a mistake on the FEC’s website to avoid disclosure of its donors.
The Los Angeles Times reported today that the secret-money 501(c)(4) group will be running $25 million worth of attack ads against President Obama through August 6, but still does not plan to identify who is bankrolling its ads:
According to the FEC, the electioneering communications window before the Democratic National Convention begins According to the FEC, the electioneering communications window before the Democratic National Convention begins Aug. 4. However, the commission has offered confusing guidance on the topic: Last week, its website identified the start the period as Aug. 7, which the FEC then said was a mistake, noting the correct date was Aug. 4.
“The commission regrets the error,” the FEC said in a statement posted on its website Friday. “The commission will exercise its prosecutorial discretion and will not take enforcement action with respect to communications disbursements made in reasonable reliance on the erroneous information on the website in connection with EC reporting.”
Crossroads GPS spokesman Jonathan Collegio told the paper that the group has no plans to disclose donors as it does not plan to “air ads that will trigger reporting in the [electioneering communications] window.” It is hard to imagine that Rove — who regularly appears on Fox News Channel as a political analyst — and the other operatives at Crossroads GPS were really unaware of when the Democratic National Convention begins.
Still, while the FEC might be willing to let Crossroads GPS avoid disclosure, they might want to consider pulling their August 4 through 7 advertisements. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) says he may file a lawsuit to force the group to comply, noting “I think they would have a really difficult time claiming that because of a technical FEC error, they get to violate the law.”
Campaign finance reform advocate Fred Wertheimer called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate any non-disclosed electioneering communications in this period as “knowing and willful” violations of campaign finance law.