Crossroads GPS, the Karl Rove-affiliated conservative group that spent at least $30 million on issue ads and other advocacy leading up to Election Day, is darn tired of being asked by the Federal Election Commission to tell the public where it gets its money and how it spends it.
The FEC says that if donations were given to Crossroads GPS for the specific purpose of running issue ads — which, to the public, appears to be the group’s main purpose — Crossroads GPS should disclose those donations. Prodded by the agency on Thursday, Caleb Crosby, the group’s treasurer, responded in a tone not normally seen in official correspondence.
“This request is the fourth such [notification] we have received on this exact same subject,” he wrote. “If the cited provision has any relevance whatsoever to the reporting of contributions in connection with independent expenditures, it is, by its own terms, inapplicable to Crossroads GPS. As we have noted before in response to your [requests for additional information], Crossroads GPS is familiar with and understands the applicable reporting regulations.
“If the organization receives any contributions that are required to be reported … those contributions will be reported as required,” he wrote. “Your continued RFAIs on this subject are unnecessary. However, if you are required by commission guidelines or procedures to continue to send them, we will continue to respond with the exact same explanation.”
American Crossroads, also tied to Mr. Rove, spent more than $50 million between May and October, disclosing its donors to the FEC. But it was backed up by Crossroads GPS, an affiliate organized under Section 501(c) of the tax code, which likely spent roughly the same amount. Such nonprofits do not automatically file donor disclosures, making them the frontier of so-called “dark-money” groups, one step past the unlimited-money super PACs that were legalized in 2010.
Brett Kappel, a campaign finance lawyer at Arent Fox, said the refusal to engage the federal commission is surprising, given that such groups’ place in a rapidly changing electoral landscape is still very much up for question.
“Pretty bold, especially considering that no court has ever ruled on this issue. They are relying solely on the 3-3 FEC split in Freedom Watch,” he said, referring to a never-settled similar case brought before the commission in 2010.
One issue in that case was whether donors specifically have to note that their donations are earmarked for the running of ads, or whether that is implied.
When the six-member commission deadlocks, no enforcement action is taken.