Republican Party leaders are urging big donors to start writing checks, and the check-writers now include Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson.
NPR has confirmed a Politico report that Adelson is putting in $20 million, evenly divided between Crossroads GPS and American Action Network. Both are 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations that don’t disclose their donors — or nondonors, as an AAN spokesman put it.
Pro-Democratic superPACs have surprised conservatives by outadvertising them in key races.
The Crossroads GPS funds are aimed at Senate races, where Republicans need a gain of six seats to win control of the chamber. The Wesleyan Media Project reported this week that on broadcast television between Aug. 29 and Sept. 11, there were more than 34,000 pro-Democratic ads in Senate races, versus fewer than 30,000 pro-Republican spots.
Adelson money for American Action Network is targeting House contests, even though the House GOP majority is considered secure. Last week AAN said it is spending $5.3 million on ad campaigns against six Democratic incumbents. The Wesleyan Media Project report found that Democratic candidates in those races were benefiting from a 2-to-1 edge in advertising.
Adelson is CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., which has casinos in Las Vegas, Pennsylvania, Singapore and Macau. His wife, Miriam, is a physician.
These two contributions mark his first high-dollar, high-profile spending this cycle. In 2012, the Adelsons gave $92.8 million to conservative superPACs and other organizations, far outpacing other donors of disclosed contributions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Federal Election Commission data show that the top two Adelson beneficiaries in 2012 were Winning Our Future, a superPAC promoting Newt Gingrich’s presidential bid, with $25.5 million; and American Crossroads, the superPAC affiliate of Crossroads GPS, with $23 million.
Spokesmen for Crossroads GPS and American Action Network would neither confirm nor deny Adelson’s contributions.
(via Huffington Post: 7 Charts To Understand Citizens United On Its 4th Anniversary)
WASHINGTON — Four years ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case that corporations could spend unlimited sums of money on independent political spending. That ruling also applied to labor unions and, following a subsequent lower court ruling, to individual donors, as well.
The ensuing four years have seen significant changes to the way campaigns are funded, and an increase in influence for big money donors, as the independent political spending allowed by the court exploded. As these groups have spent more money, the sources of a large portion of their spending have gone undisclosed.
Below are seven charts to help you understand the impact of the Citizens United ruling as it reaches its fourth year:
Big Money DominatesTop 1% Of Donors Accounted For Two-Thirds Of All Super PAC Funds In 2012
- Top 1%: 68%
- Other 99%: 32%Source: Center for Responsive Politics.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the top 1 percent of super PAC donors accounted for 68 percent of all contributions made to super PACs in the 2012 election, the first full election cycle following the ruling.
These donors were led by casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his family, who combined to give more than $93 million to super PACs. The super PAC, created following both the Citizens United and the related SpeechNow.org decisions, became the primary vehicle for independent spending for the wealthy. While these groups are required to disclose their spending, they are also allowed to spend all of their funds on electoral efforts, unlike nonprofit organizations. But more on that later.
The top 1 percent of super PAC donors reads like the Forbes 400 or a guest list at Davos. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg operates his very own super PAC. The libertarian venture capitalist billionaire Peter Thiel became the largest donor to the Club for Growth’s super PAC as it worked to defeat establishment Republicans in primary campaigns. And billionaire hedge funders James Simons, Robert Mercer, Paul Singer and Ken Griffin all gave millions.
Billionaires now have an easy outlet for their entrepreneurial endeavors in politics. The only question is whether they want their names on a plaque — in this case, a disclosed FEC report — or if they would rather remain anonymous.
Of course, it isn’t so simple. The court’s ruling opened the door for nonprofit corporations, whether they are funded by corporations or not, to spend unlimited amounts on independent campaign activity so long as they remain in bounds of the lax tax laws that govern them. These tax laws do not require the disclosure of nonprofit donors. In fact, prior court rulings and Federal Election Commission legal interpretations had protected nonprofits from donor disclosure.
Nonprofits are not ideal for individuals or corporations who want to spend money on independent political activity, due to tax laws requiring these groups to spend a majority of their time outside of politics. But the donor anonymity they are guaranteed can make nonprofits worth the investment. The billionaire Koch brothers and their donor collective used a labyrinthine network of nonprofit groups to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into both the 2010 and 2012 elections.
One of the most obvious examples of donors’ desire for anonymity comes in the form of the Crossroads groups founded by Karl Rove. There is American Crossroads, the super PAC that discloses its donors, and there is Crossroads GPS, the nonprofit that does not. As evidenced in the chart below, donors have chosen anonymity at a rate of two-to-one since the groups were founded in 2010.Source: Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service.Donors Choose Dark Money Over Disclosure
- American Crossroads: $144,047,997
- Crossroads GPS: $256,547,160
More Money Than Candidates
In the 2012 election, independent groups spent more money than the actual candidates in three general election Senate races. That’s right — in Indiana, Virginia and Wisconsin, the major party candidates in the general election were outspent by independent groups.
That same dynamic played out in at least six House races in 2012. In California’s 35th District, independent groups — and really, just one independent group — spent two times as much as the candidates. In this race between two Democrats, Michael Bloomberg’s super PAC intervened with $3.3 million as the billionaire mayor sought to defeat the pro-gun incumbent Rep. Joe Baca (D). And he did: Bloomberg’s super PAC spending is credited with helping the heavily underfunded Gloria Negrete McLeod defeat Baca.
Shattered Television Advertising RecordsSource: Wesleyan Media Project. Numbers are based on data released in the paper titled, “Negative, Angry, and Ubiquitous: Political Advertising in 2012.”Presidential Television Advertising Surged Post-Citizens United
- 2004: 753,000
- 2008: 796,000
- 2012: 1,140,000
The Wesleyan Media Project tracked television advertising in the 2012 election and found that advertising in the presidential campaign shattered previous records for money spent and advertising volume.
The number of television advertisements in the presidential general election jumped from approximately 753,000 in 2004 to approximately 1.14 million in 2012. While the decision by both President Barack Obama and also GOP nominee Mitt Romney to forgo public funding accounts for some of the increase, the rise of independent spending also played a major role.
Source: The Huffington Post
In an aggressive move designed to crack down on free-spending outside political groups, the Obama administration is proposing strict new rules curtailing nonprofits like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the pro-Obama Priorities USA.
The draft proposal, released Tuesday by the Treasury Department, would keep so-called social welfare 501(c)(4) nonprofits from getting a tax exemption if they engage in too much “candidate related” political activity.
The groups were at the heart of this summer’s scandal over Internal Revenue Service targeting of tea party and other conservative groups seeking tax exemptions.
The proposal is the first major response to a Treasury inspector general report in May blasting the IRS for added scrutiny of tea party conservative groups seeking tax exemption — a major scandal that led President Barack Obama to fire the acting IRS commissioner and other officials to exit the agency.
The inspector general report recommended the IRS tighten its rules.
The new regulations would affect a broad swath of political nonprofit groups that have come to play an outsized and influential role in federal elections.
Crossroads, founded by George W. Bush adviser Rove, along with its sister super PAC together spent $325 million in 2011 and 2012 against Obama and Senate Democrats. Priorities, set up by former Obama aide Bill Burton, raised $10.7 million in the 2012 cycle.
Dozens of these political nonprofits have used 501(c)(4) tax status as a way to shield their donors.
(via Karoli at Crooks and Liars: Rachel Maddow Slams Conservative Fox Commentators and Other Right Wing Scammers)
Rachel Maddow’s long report on conservative scams could not have come at a better time. As I’ve followed the money throughout the years, I’ve noticed a pattern to the money trail that almost always includes scammy fundraising techniques at the heart of things.
As Rachel points out in this piece, Karl Rove uses his Wall Street Journal column and Fox News commentator position as a way to raise even more money for Crossroads GPS, his right-wing money machine.
Mike Huckabee has lots of different ways to raise a few bucks. Using his Fox News show and his gig as a paid commentator there, he’s launched various fundraising efforts such as this one, asking for donations to help keep the movement alive to repeal Obamacare.
Even ridiculous Dick Morris used his Newsmax and Fox News visibility to raise funds alongside Michael Reagan for the SuperPAC for America. Despite raising nearly $3 million from small donors, just over half was spent to oppose President Obama’s bid for re-election.
Here’s the framework:
- Get connected with a high-profile media outlet. Maybe even two or three.
- Make outrageous statements, raise your visibility.
- Point viewers and readers to your fundraising page.
It’s not limited to the likes of Rove, Morris and Huckabee, either. Ali Akbar’s National Bloggers’ Club is one of the best representations of the model. The Breitbart empire serves as one of the media outlets to conservative bloggers. For the past six months, any conservative blogger who writes about their current invented stable of villains finds a place to shine with the Breitbots.
Watchdog: Karl Rove And His Crossroads GPS Broke Election Law By Failing To Disclose Donors | ThinkProgress
The non-partisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed complaints Thursday with both the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) alleging that Karl Rove and his secretive Crossroads GPS violated election law and may have engaged in a criminal conspiracy to do so.
Under campaign finance law and FEC regulations, 501(c)(4) groups, like Crossroads GPS, can raise unlimited funds from wealthy individuals and corporations without having to disclose their donors. The only time donors to these secretive groups must be disclosed is when donors give more than $200 explicitly “for the purpose of furthering an independent expenditure.”CREW also notes that, in a 2011 letter to the FEC, Crossroads GPS said that it “understands the applicable reporting regulations” and that, should it receive “any contributions that are required to be reported,” it would do so as required. Given this, CREW argues, the violations “were deliberate” and “are subject to criminal as well as civil penalties.”Crossroads GPS may also be in hot water for its apparent failure to register as a charity in Virginia, as required by law.
When Karl Rove’s Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (GPS) formed in 2010, it established its official address in Warrenton, VA, and registered with the Internal Revenue Service a tax-exempt 501(c)(4) “social welfare organization.” It apparently did not, however, register as a charitable organization with the Commonwealth of Virginia, as appears was legally required.
According to state code, non-profit groups that intend to solicit contributions must first register with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs. Groups must pay an annual fee ($325 for groups raising over $1 million annually), provide basic information about their operations, and must sign statements affirming that no funds “have been or will knowingly be used, directly or indirectly, to benefit or provide support, in cash or in kind, to terrorists, terrorist organizations, terrorist activities, or the family members of any terrorist.”
The Virginia law explicitly exempts political campaign committees that are “required by state or federal law to file a report or statement of contributions and expenditures.” Crossroads GPS has consistently kept its contributors secret as it has raised and spent tens of millions of dollars against Democratic candidates.
Karl Rove is upping the ante. According to Politico, the Rove-founded American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS are launching their biggest paid-media push of the election cycle Tuesday, with a $16 million one-week buy on TV and radio in multiple presidential swing states and Senate battlegrounds.
Of that $16 million, the super PAC American Crossroads will devote $11 million to defeating President Barack Obama, with a TV spot titled “Actually Happened” that compares the current 8.1 unemployment rate to a lower rate that the president projected earlier in his term. Viewers will see the ad in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.
Crossroads GPS, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, will spend $1 million on radio ads in those same states and an additional $4 million in Montana, North Dakota and Virginia.
We can’t beat their money so we have to beat them with boots on the ground. Have you volunteered?
For all the headlines and hand-wringing about super-PACs, it is dark-money nonprofits like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity that dominate the political money wars. These politically oriented groups, which keep their donors secret, outspent super-PACs 3-to-2 in the 2010 elections. Through the spring of 2012, 91 percent of advertising by independent groups came from nonprofits and big business trade groups. And a growing pile of evidence suggests that it’s these nonprofits, notsuper-PACs, hauling in the bulk of corporate political cash.
But come Saturday, the dark-money nonprofits face a dilemma. A high-profile court case known asVan Hollen v. FEC threatens to shine an unwelcome beam of sunlight on donors bankrolling these organizations. Nothing’s stopping Crossroads GPS or AFP from running more “issue” ads hitting Obama and other Democrats (that is, ads that don’t explicitly say “vote for” or “vote against”). Except now nonprofits will have to reveal who funded those spots.
ark-money nonprofits don’t want to name names. Their pitch to donors includes the promise of anonymity and a shield from public scrutiny. This means that Crossroads GPS and other politically active nonprofits—which aren’t supposed to make politicking their primary purpose—have to rethink their ad strategy, election experts say. Do they shift money to super-PACs? Go dark in the months before the election? Find another loophole to run ads and keep their donors secret?
Tax and election law experts say that, short of shutting down, any new strategy carries significant risks. Run-ins with the Internal Revenue Service or the Federal Election Commission, the federal elections watchdog, could be on the horizon. “It’s a tough strategic choice for these groups,” says Joseph Birkenstock, an election law attorney and former chief counsel at the Democratic National Committee.
Here’s the quick-and-dirty version of how nonprofits including Crossroads GPS, Americans for Prosperity, and pro-Obama Priorities USA, among others, ended up in this bind. Until recently, nonprofits had exploited a federal loophole allowing them to run issue ads without disclosing the sources of their funding. These so-called social welfare organizations may also run ads directly backing or opposing candidates, but can’t run too many of them at the risk of running afoul of the IRS for being too political.
In 2011, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and pro-reform advocacy groups sued the Federal Election Commission to close that loophole. This March, a federal district court judge agreed with Van Hollen, and a second federal judge refused to stay that decision. The loophole was gone. (The case is currently on appeal.)
In other words, the rule book has changed mid-election for politically active nonprofits, and the first effects will be felt Saturday. Now, if AFP or Priorities USA runs a TV or radio ad mentioning Obama or Romney without endorsing or opposing a candidate, the group’s donors must be named. Starting in early September, if they mention any federal candidate, donors must be named.
One dark-money heavyweight, the US Chamber of Commerce, has already said it will change its game plan. As Chamber president Tom Donohue explained in May, the Chamber will no longer run the thinly veiled “issue” ads mentioning a candidate that it did in 2010 and 2011. Instead, the group—which says it’ll spend $50 million during the 2012 cycle—will run ads outright urging voters to oppose or support a candidate. The Chamber can get away with this because, after decades of conservatives and libertarians chipping away at the law, a loophole opened letting donors escape disclosure for “vote for” and “vote against” ads by nonprofit groups.
The Obama campaign’s top lawyer fired off a letter to Karl Rove Thursday, demanding a retraction of a “mystifying” comment Rove made and raising questions about his upcoming appearance at a Mitt Romney campaign event.
The letter is the second that Bob Bauer has sent to Rove this week. The first arguedthat Rove could no longer insist that his advocacy group, Crossroads GPS, was policy oriented — a distinction that allowed it to shield the names of its donors. The follow-up letter, obtained by The Huffington Post, makes that same point, arguing that there is no “social welfare” component to the group’s operations.
But it also challenges Rove in more direct terms. Bauer hints that Rove, the chief strategist to former President George W. Bush, is colluding with Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, by homing in on Rove’s presence at a Romney retreat in Utah this upcoming weekend. He also expands the scope of his complaint to Rove’s role with American Crossroads, the super PAC arm of Crossroads GPS.
Bauer’s letters allowed him to make his point without actually putting many legal or political resources behind the effort. As Rove argued during the Fox News interview, there are also progressive 501(c)4 institutions that, like Crossroads GPS, toe the line between policy work and campaigning, and Bauer hasn’t asked for the names of their contributors.
But none of those groups do it with as much gusto or money as Crossroads GPS does. A top Obama campaign official on Wednesday floated the idea of going to the courts in order to push for donor transparency, suggesting that the campaign is getting more and more serious about the matter and may soon move beyond sending letters.
This week, Crossroads GPS announced a $650,000 nationwide television ad campaign called “Deflect.” The 30-second spot falsely blames Obama administration actions for the rise in gasoline prices since 2009.
Crossroads GPS is a tax-exempt 501(c)(4) group, affiliated with the American Crossroads super PAC. Karl Rove has been linked to both groups.
The spot begins by noting gas prices “then and now” — going up from the unusually low prices of January 2009 to the higher prices of today. A narrator asks what has made the difference.
The narrator then claims the reasons for higher gas prices are:
– “President Obama’s administrationrestricted oil production in the Gulf”
–Limited development of American oil shale
– Obama personally lobbied to kill a pipeline bringing oil from Canada.
Unlike candidate ad spots, television stations are under no obligation to run ads by outside groups, especially when the ads are factually wrong. This one is.