-By Eric W. Dolan
July 25, 2012- A third complaint has been filed with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Crossroads GPS, a group co-founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove, has been unlawfully hiding its donors from the public by masquerading as a “social welfare” organization.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed the complaint on Tuesday, claiming the pro-Republican group failed to report TV ads it ran against three Democratic Senate candidates to the FEC.
“Crossroads GPS wants to have its cake and eat it too. Karl Rove’s secretive 501(c)(4) wants to run political ads without complying with the disclosure rules applicable to such ads,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “By disguising political ads as issue ads, Crossroads is trying to do an end run around the law.”
Crossroads GPS contends that all its ads are “issue ads,” which are “a position statement about, or a discussion of, public issues.” But CREW alleges that the three ads constitute independent expenditures, which are communications “expressly advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate.”
The distinction between issue ads and independent expenditures is an important one. Crossroads GPS is registered with the IRS as a tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organization, allowing the group to raise unlimited sums from wealthy individuals and keep the identity of those donors a secret. But 501(c)(4) organizations are prohibited from campaigning “on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.”
If Crossroads GPS is found be to making independent expenditures, it would be subject to federal reporting requirements like other political committees.