Andy Kroll

Andy Kroll

Senior Reporter

Andy Kroll is Mother Jones' Dark Money reporter. He is based in the DC bureau. His work has also appeared at the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Men's Journal, the American Prospect, and TomDispatch.com, where he's an associate editor. Email him at akroll (at) motherjones (dot) com. He tweets at @AndyKroll.

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One Donor Ponied Up 35 Percent of Crossroads GPS's 2011 Haul

| Thu Apr. 19, 2012 5:54 AM EDT
Karl Rove.

Talk about a mega-donor. Of the $28.4 million in donations banked in 2011 by Republican outside money group Crossroads GPS, a whopping $10 million of it came from just one donor. That's 35 percent. From one person, or one corporation.

Crossroads GPS, which does not disclose its donors, is the brainchild of GOP political mastermind Karl Rove. Founded in 2010, the group is technically a tax-exempt non-profit, known as a 501(c)(4), that can spend money on political advocacy so long as politicking isn't the majority of what it does. To comply with federal tax law, Crossroads must focus most of its work on issues, not candidates; otherwise, the group would have to file as a political action committee and reveal its funders. Crossroads' critics say the group does far too much political advocacy, and that the IRS should not grant the group permanent (c)(4) status. "The continued refusal by the IRS to reign in scofflaws abusing a privileged tax status has only encouraged even more blatant disregard for the law by these groups and their anonymous funders," Gerald Hebert, executive director of the Campaign Legal Center, said in a statement Tuesday.

Crossroads has repeatedly insisted its activities are perfectly legal, and the IRS has not given any clear indication that it is investigating the group.

Here's more on Crossroads' money from Bloomberg:

Crossroads said it took in $77 million from June 1, 2010, through Dec. 31, 2011. It also received a single contribution of $10.1 million before June 1, 2011, as well as donations of $5 million, $4.5 million and $4 million.

The group shared its largesse with other Republican-leaning nonprofits. Crossroads contributed $500,000 to the American Action Network, headed by former Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman, which spent more than $19 million on ads to elect Republicans in 2010; and $50,000 to the 60 Plus Association, which supports privatizing Social Security and spent more than $7 million on ads on behalf of Republican congressional candidates in 2010.

In addition, Crossroads gave $3.7 million to the National Federation of Independent Business, which is suing to overturn President Barack Obama’s health-care law that expands coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. NFIB reported spending more than $1 million on ads to help elect Republicans in 2010, as well as another $1.5 million that it kept hidden and said was exempt from requirements that it disclose campaign spending.

 

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ALEC to Right-Wing Bloggers: We Need Your Help!

| Wed Apr. 18, 2012 2:24 PM EDT

The American Legislative Exchange Council, the once-obscure organization that pairs corporations with state lawmakers to draft pro-business and often anti-union legislation for the state level, is in damage control mode. Corporate members such as McDonald's, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Mars, Inc. have cut ties with ALEC after taking heat from a coalition of progressive groups angry over ALEC's "discriminatory" voter ID bills and controversial "Stand Your Ground" self-defense legislation that figures into the Trayvon Martin shooting in central Florida.

To push back, ALEC has turned to the conservative blogosphere for help. As PR Watch reported, Caitlyn Korb, ALEC's director of external relations, told attendees at a Heritage Foundation "Bloggers Briefing" on Tuesday that the campaign against ALEC was "part of a wider effort to shut all of us down." She asked the bloggers for "any and all institutional support" in ALEC's fight against progressive groups, especially when it came to social media. "We're getting absolutely killed in social media venues—Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest," she said. "Any and all new media support you guys can provide would be so helpful, not just to us but to average people who don't know much about this fight but are seeing us really get heavily attacked with very little opposition."

Korb educated the bloggers with a handout listing ALEC's positions on a range of issues. PR Watch, one of ALEC's loudest critics, described the handout as "riddled with errors." Here's a list of ALEC statements followed by PR Watch's responses in italics:

  • "The potential solutions discussed at ALEC focus on free markets, limited government, and constitutional division of powers between the federal and state governments." It is hard to discern what voter suppression bills, tax breaks for big tobacco, bans on unionization, protections for companies whose products injure or kill, and "Stand Your Ground/Kill at Will" laws have to do with free markets.

  • "The organization respects diversity of thought; it is a non-partisan resource for its members, which include more than 2,000 Republican and Democratic state legislators." Diversity of thought apparently refers to Republicans talking to Republicans. Although touted as "nonpartisan," when CMD launched ALEC Exposed, out of 104 legislators in leadership positions in ALEC, only one was a Democrat. It's hard to believe that ALEC phone briefs on redistricting are totally nonpartisan.
     
  • "Unlike in many private sector groups that offer model legislation, elected state legislators fully control ALEC’s model legislation process." As ALEC's public Task Force Operating Procedures" (PDF, p. 8) and other documents reveal, corporate members vote alongside legislators in ALEC task forces.
     
  • "Each state legislator and their constituents then decide which solutions are best for them and their states." For the most part, constituents have no way of knowing that corporations wrote or approved ALEC legislation behind closed doors.

Blogger outreach isn't ALEC's only response to the campaign against it. ALEC has issued a handful of statements decrying the "coordinated and well-funded intimidation campaign" against it and pledging to keep pushing its agenda. In what some progressives touted as a victory, ALEC announced this week that it is eliminating of its "Public Safety and Elections" task force, the group that pushed voter ID bills as well as Stand Your Ground laws. Korb said ALEC will soon launch a new website called "I Stand With ALEC" to rally support. "We need to start fighting back," she said.

The progressive groups waging war on ALEC, meanwhile, have no plans of letting up. "Corporate membership in ALEC isn't just destructive to democracy, it's also bad for business," Michael Keegan, president of People for the American Way, said last week. "Corporations that currently support ALEC have a choice to make: They can continue to underwrite reckless assaults on our rights and wellbeing, or they can stand up for their customers by leaving ALEC immediately."

Mars Inc. Says Adios to ALEC

| Fri Apr. 13, 2012 11:52 AM EDT
A bag of Skittles, made by Mars Inc.

Mars Inc., the company that makes everything from Skittles to M&M's to Uncle Ben's, has joined McDonald's, Wendy's, and a half-dozen other companies in quitting the American Legislative Exchange Council.

ALEC, as it's known, is a corporate-funded non-profit that writes pro-business and often anti-union draft legislation for state lawmakers to introduce in their legislatures. ALEC has come under fire recently from good-government and civil rights groups for pushing voter identification bills that critics say discriminate against blacks and Hispanics. ALEC foes have also blasted the organization for promoting so-called Stand Your Ground laws like the one at the center of the Trayvon Martin shooting.

Bob Edgar, the president of Common Cause, one of the groups in the anti-ALEC coalition, hailed Mars' decision. "Its leaders understand that continued support for ALEC’s advocacy of vigilante justice and assaults on voting and employee rights, public schools, and reasonable environmental regulations is neither good business nor good corporate citizenship," Edgar said in a statement.

In a statement published this week, ALEC executive director Ron Scheberle said his organization wouldn't be cowed by what it called an "intimidation campaign launched by a coalition of extreme liberal activists committed to silencing anyone who disagrees with their agenda." He continued, "Finally, now more than ever, America needs organizations like ALEC to foster the discussion and debate of policy differences in an open, transparent way and not fall back on bullying, intimidation and threats."

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