Watchdog: Rove-Founded Group Broke the Law By Not Disclosing Certain Donors

Karl Rove.Tom Reel/San Antonio Express-News/ZUMA Press

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The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) claims that Crossroads GPS, the dark-money nonprofit co-founded by GOP political gurus Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, broke the law by not disclosing certain donors.

In complaints filed with the Federal Election Commission and the FBI, CREW says that Crossroads GPS—which spent more than $70 million on the 2012 elections—violated election law by not naming who funded Crossroads’ ads in Ohio’s Senate race between Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown and Republican Josh Mandel. Under current law, groups like Crossroads don’t have to disclose who funds their ads if their donors don’t earmark their money for a specific purpose—say, for an ad to run on Monday, November 6 attacking Sherrod Brown on the auto bailout. Of course, donors rarely give these kinds of instructions—they mostly fork over their money and let the experts do the work.

But CREW says some of Crossroads’ Ohio Senate bankrollers should be revealed because they did earmark their donations. At an August fundraiser in Tampa, Rove told attendees that an anonymous out-of-state donor had pledged $3 million in matching money specifically to defeat Sherrod Brown. All Rove had to do was raise the other $3 million. “Bob Castellini, owner of the Cincinnati Reds, is helping raise the other $3 million for that one,” Rove said, according to the Bloomberg Businessweek editor who attended the private fundraiser.

That unnamed $3 million donor should be revealed because he or she donated specifically to influence Ohio’s Senate race, CREW contends. “Karl Rove and Crossroads GPS didn’t just skirt around the edges of the law; this time it appears they jumped headlong into a criminal conspiracy,” Melanie Sloan, CREW’s executive director, said in a statement.

Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio dismissed CREW’s claims as politically-motivated nonsense. “CREW is a hyper-partisan, labor-funded front group that files frivolous complaints like this as part of its mission,” Collegio wrote in an email. “Crossroads is aware of the laws governing the groups and follows all of them closely.”

As a nonprofit, Crossroads GPS does not disclose any of its donors. The group was among the biggest-spending dark-money group of the 2012 election cycle. In all, $208 million in dark money was spent during the 2012 elections, according to the Sunlight Foundation. Eight out of every $10 in dark money went to benefit Republicans.

More MotherJones reporting on Dark Money

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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