Scrutiny Of Rove Political Group Mounts

An organization co-founded by former top Bush-era White House aide Karl Rove has drawn a fresh complaint against it for pouring millions of dollars into attacks designed to defeat Democrats in the coming midterm elections.

Crossroads Grassroots Political Strategies, an organization created by Rove and fellow longtime GOP strategist Ed Gillespie to influence the 2010 elections with huge expenditures of money, appears to be violating federal campaign law, two Washington watchdog group told the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in a complaint filed Wednesday.

Its the second time this month that a formal complaint has been filed against American Crossroads GPS, which is funding independent ad campaigns targeting congressional Democrats. Separate groups earlier asked the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to investigate the Rove/Giillespie organization.

At issue is its status as a nonprofit 501c(4) organization while essentially operating as a political committee, the complaints say.

Crossroads GPS was formed in July by Rove and Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman. It shares offices with American Crossroads, a registered political committee created this year that also is the brainchild of Rove and Gillespie, according to Public Citizen and Protect Our Elections, the watchdogs which seek action by the FEC, citing unspecified published reports.

Rove has boasted on Fox News that American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS were avenues for donors who have “maxed out” contributions to the official federal Republican political committees to funnel money into the 2010 elections, according to a statement from Public Citizen and Protect Our Elections. So far, both groups have spent about $18 million to influence key Senate races.

Democrats will be defending their majorities in both the House and Senate in just weeks, in a political environment that appears to be favoring Republicans.

American Crossroads’ board chairman told one newspaper that both groups planned to spend nearly $50 million on Senate races, Public Citizen and Protect Our Elections say. Crossroads GPS, by its own admission, has made several million dollars in expenditures for express campaign advocacy.

The threshold for registration as a political committee is only $1,000. A group that meets that threshold must register if its major purpose is to influence elections, which by all accounts seems to be Crossroads GPS’ main mission.

Crossroads GPS appears to be violating numerous provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act by failing to register as a political committee, failing to file political committee financial disclosure reports and failing to comply with the political committee organizational requirements, the complaint says.

The January Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court struck down decades of limitations on corporate influence on elections, which opened the floodgates to expenditures such as those by American Crossroads.

Democrats have attempted to pass legislation, known as the DISCLOSE Act, which would provide public transparency for this increased political spending. Although the House approved the bill, Republicans have blocked it from coming to a vote in the Senate.

“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,” says 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,” Weissman adds. “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 publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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