Washington, D.C., hit near-record high temperatures on Wednesday. But that didn’t discourage more than a hundred dedicated activists from making the two-mile walk from Dupont Circle to the headquarters of Crossroads GPS, one of those outside groups spending millions of dollars to sway the elections. These brave souls were marching to demand that Crossroads co-founder and GOP strategist Karl Rove be held accountable for selling out our democracy to the highest bidder.
As we journeyed together through the streets of our nation’s capital, I heard people talking about lots of different issues—from jobs and retirement to health care and elections. Ultimately, however, most of their grievances boiled down to a single word: fairness. These folks were out in the scorching heat because they believe that American democracy is about every citizen having a voice in government. Not about how many dollars a person (real or corporate) can spend on TV and radio ads.
At our destination, all one had to do was look around to see what real democracy looks like. It’s not the small group of people who were upstairs in an air conditioned room, figuring out how to manipulate voters into favoring the candidates that corporations want in office. Democracy is those who cared about their country enough to brave the heat for a chance to shout in the streets that people, not corporations, should have the power in our system.
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.
Amount the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent this week in new independent expenditures: $6.6 million
Amount the committee has spent to date: $19 million
The amount the committee is expected to spend before Election Day: $52 million
Amount that just two Republican groups, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, have raised to influence the elections: $56 million
FEC should investigate Crossroads GPS for campaign finance law violations, watchdogs say
Crossroads GPS, an organization created by Republican strategists Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie to influence the midterm elections with huge expenditures of money, appears to be violating federal campaign law, Public Citizen and Protect Our Elections told the Federal Election Commission in a complaint filed this week.
SuperPacs are debasing our democracy
When the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision in January, Public Citizen predicted that corporations were sure to accept the court’s invitation to overrun the political process. We were hardly alone in offering this prognostication. Nine months later, we concede: Things are much, much worse than we anticipated.
Republican strategist Karl Rove has boasted on Fox News that the two organizations he co-created are great places for donors to turn when they have maxed out on giving to Republican committees trying to influence the upcoming elections. The trouble is, one of Rove’s groups, Crossroads GPS, is not supposed to be focused on political activity because of the tax code under which it was set up. Still, both groups, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, are spending like there’s no tomorrow on political ads.
“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,” said 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. 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 U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United has ushered in
Pollution almost looks pretty in Washington state. Flickr photo by United Nations Photo.
If you read one thing today . . .
Greg Sargent at The Plum Line wonders when the nation’s crack political reporters are going to start fact-checking the outrageous claims coming out of Republican kingmaker Karl Rove’s mouth. Don’t get us wrong, there’s some good political reporting going on this election season but, come on folks, giving Rove a free pass in the name of “balance” is just lazy reporting. Unfortunately, a lot of Rove’s outright lies are bouncing around the Internet’s echo chamber where they are quickly becoming conservative talking points. Sargent writes:
Karl Rove, who co-founded two big spending groups, and others behind the huge conservative ad buys, have repeatedly claimed in recent days that their spending is comparable to anonymous spending from the left. These claims are serious distortions at best and demonstrable falsehoods at worst. But no one seems to care. While it’s understandable that White House claims would draw more scrutiny, Rove is a hugely influential figure this year, helping raise and spend tens of millions to swing the elections.
The Shareholder Protection Act, which would give shareholders a say in how their boards spend money in political campaigns, is stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives and hasn’t gone anywhere in the U.S. Senate. Want to know why we need it? Just ask these News Corps. shareholders who aren’t happy that Rupert Murdoch’s company gave matching $1 million donations to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Republican Governors Association. According to The Caucus blog in the NYT, The Nathan Cummings Foundation wrote:
“The apparent lack of a strategic rationale for News Corp. raises very serious concerns for shareholders as to whether Mr. Murdoch and the rest of the News Corp. Board of Directors are truly taking shareholder interests into account when they approve political payments made with shareholders’ assets.”