Public Citizen is happy to have the Obama administration join the chorus of voices calling for an investigation of Crossroads Grassroots Political Strategies (GPS). Crossroads GPS is a so-called “social welfare” organization set up by Republican strategists Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie designed to influence federal elections, and Public Citizen believes they are abusing the tax code in order to conceal their donors from the American public – in violation of campaign finance law.
Public Citizen and Protect Our Elections filed a similar complaint against Crossroads GPS in 2010, asserting that there is ample reason to believe that Crossroads GPS, which is registered as a nonprofit 501c(4) organization, is in fact a political committee and should be subject to the restrictions and disclosure rules for political committees.
America is witnessing full-scale evasion of our campaign finance and disclosure laws in the middle of this critical 2012 presidential election. Following the disastrous Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations may spend unlimited corporate money to influence elections, corporate money now is flooding our state, judicial and federal campaigns. And most of this corporate money is secretly flowing into the elections through electioneering nonprofit groups, like Crossroads GPS, which do not have to disclose their donors under the tax code.
But the elections code is an entirely different story. Any group whose major purpose is to influence elections is required to register as a PAC and disclose its funding sources under the Federal Election Campaign Act. Crossroads GPS appears to serve little purpose other than buying Congress and the White House in the 2012 elections, and therefore appears to be in clear violation of the law.
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) should not stop with Crossroads GPS. Hundreds of similar secretive c(4) electioneering groups have sprung up specifically for the 2012 elections, including Priorities USA, which is supporting the election of President Barack Obama.
The FEC must begin fulfilling its mission of implementing and enforcing federal campaign finance laws, and the place to start is to investigate the big money players who are trying to influence our votes but who refuse to disclose who is paying them.
Craig Holman is Public Citizen’s government affairs lobbyist.