ANALYSIS: Both Regular And ‘Shadow’ RNCs Brought To You By Big Oil

Oil Drum Stuffed With MoneyFollowing scandal after scandal, many donors have abandoned the Michael Steele-led Republican National Committee in favor of other right-wing groups preparing to attack Democratic candidates in this fall’s elections. The two biggest beneficiaries of the RNC’s woes appear to be American Crossroads, the “shadow RNC” setup by Bush operatives Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, and the Republican Governors Association, currently chaired by Mississippi Governor and former RNC Chairman Haley Barbour. Despite their apparent strategic differences, these three groups still have one thing in common: massive infusions of cash from Big Oil. Over $4 million of oil-related cash has spewed into the three groups in the second quarter alone.

AMERICAN CROSSROADS: American Crossroads, the shadowy 527 group setup by Rove and Gillespie as a supposed “grassroots” alternative to the RNC, and whose stated goal is to distort the facts in order to brand the BP oil disaster as “Obama’s Katrina,” has received 97 percent of its funding from just four right-wing billionaires. Of these, two made their fortunes in the oil and gas industry, according to a report by Salon. The two Dallas-based oil billionaires, Trevor Rees-Jones and Robert Rowling, each contributed $1 million to the group, which recently began airing misleading attack ads against Senator Harry Reid. Rove and Gillespie have also explicitly taken advantage of the recent Citizens United Supreme Court decision to setup a related 501(c)4 organization, American Crossroads GPS, in order to conceal the identity of some of their donors. The public will likely never know where the $5.1 million the group raised in June came from because of “the value of confidentiality to some donors,” but it could have come from other right-wing oil billionaires like tea party-funder David Koch to major corporations like BP America and Goldman Sachs.

RGA: Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour has moved aggressively to promote the RGA as an alternative to the RNC. In addition to setting up “victory funds” across the country that have long been “the province of the RNC,” Barbour recently told a private audience that “[he] had to raise the RGA budget by $10 million because the RNC is in such bad shape.” Barbour, who has made something of a recent career out of downplaying the severity of the BP oil disaster, has indeed driven RGA fundraising to new heights during his tenure as chairman. As we previously reported, the oil and gas industry appears to have shown its appreciation for Barbour’s Big Oil apologism by contributing more than $2 million to the RGA’s coffers in the last quarter alone.

RNC: Despite its almost constant series of travails, the regular RNC, which still lists Gillespie as the owner of its headquarters, continues to take in boatloads of cash from Big Oil. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that so far this election cycle the RNC has received $555,439 from the oil and gas industry — enough to make Big Oil one of the embattled committee’s top ten sources of cash. The RNC unveiled a new ad yesterday attacking President Obama’s response to BP oil disaster, perhaps in the hopes of drumming up even more cash from Big Oil.

Unfortunately for the regular RNC, there’s at least one major GOP donor who is only giving his money to the shadow RNCs. Texas leveraged buyout billionaire Harold Simmons, best known for funding the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004 and false attack ads linking President Obama to Bill Ayers in 2008, has recently channeled $1 million to American Crossroads and $125,000 to the RGA.