Sixty-two percent of funds raised by two conservative groups associated with former Bush adviser Karl Rove have come from mystery donors, a statistic that shows the increasingly important role being played by nonprofits in a post-Citizens United political world. American Crossroads, a super PAC, and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, a nonprofit, were founded in 2010 by Rove and another former Bush adviser, Ed Gillespie. Together, they raised $123 million through the end of 2011, according to an iWatch News review of Federal Election Commission data and Internal Revenue Service filings. Of that sum, $76.8 million, or 62 percent, went to Crossroads GPS, which is a nonprofit, “social welfare” group organized under section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code. Like American Crossroads, Crossroads GPS can pay for advertising that attacks political opponents by name and urges viewers to vote against them. But unlike the super PAC, GPS is prohibited from making politics its “primary purpose,” according to the IRS, a rule that these politically active nonprofits have interpreted to mean they can spend up to 49 percent of their funds on such advertising.
As a nonprofit, the group is not required to publicly name its donors, except if they give “for the purpose of furthering” a political advertisement. (GPS has told the FEC that it has not “solicited or received” contributions earmarked for such expenditures.) Jonathan Collegio, the communications director of Crossroads GPS, said that the group’s unnamed donors, which number fewer than 100, are “individuals and businesses that support its vision of lower taxes and smaller government.”
Election law expert Rick Hasen, a professor at the University of California-Irvine law school, told iWatch News that he wasn’t surprised that more money was flowing into Crossroads’ “secret money option. For every Bob Perry who craves the attention, there are many others, including corporations, who hope to influence politicians and policy without any public accountability,” he said.