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Dec. 14, 2015

Much-Anticipated FEC Legal Report Suggests Crossroads GPS Is a Political Committee

Statement of Craig Holman, Government Affairs Lobbyist, Public Citizen

Note: As a result of a recent order in Public Citizen v. Federal Election Commission (FEC), the FEC has released a report (PDF) that has been kept under wraps for two years. It indicates that Public Citizen likely is correct in contending that Crossroads GPS is a political organization masquerading as a policy-focused nonprofit.

At long last, the public can read the first version of the FEC general counsel’s report on the political committee status of Crossroads GPS, a group co-founded by Republican strageist Karl Rove. The report, like the later report that was released to the public at the time the FEC deadlocked and declined to take action against Crossroads GPS, suggests that Public Citizen likely was correct in calling for Crossroads GPS to be classified as a political committee subject to disclosure requirements for political committees.

Crossroads GPS spent millions to influence the 2010, 2012 and 2014 elections – a pattern that may be repeated in the 2016 elections. Yet, because it is registered as a “social welfare” nonprofit organization rather than a political committee, Crossroads evades disclosure laws designed to let voters know who is trying to influence their votes.

There are only two major differences between this report and the final report from the FEC general counsels’ office – both of which argue that Crossroads GPS has indeed crossed the line into political committee status. The newly disclosed report places greater emphasis than the final report on the close link between Crossroads GPS and its super PAC sister, American Crossroads. The report also argues that Crossroads GPS should be viewed as having the “primary purpose” of influencing elections under either a “plurality” or “majority” standard for determining how much of an organization’s activity must be electoral in order to qualify as its major purpose.

The report weighs strongly in favor of Public Citizen’s complaint and its lawsuit against the FEC, which contends that the FEC acted arbitrarily and unlawfully in declining to pursue the allegation that Crossroads GPS should be classified as a political committee subject to the disclosure requirements imposed by federal election laws.

A robust democracy requires transparency. Voters deserve to know who is spending money to influence their choices at the polls.

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