Dark Money Deluge: Crossroads GPS Unveils $25 Million Ad Campaign

Crossroads GPS' new ad hammering President Barack Obama.

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.

Crossroads GPS, the deep-pocketed nonprofit created by Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, announced Wednesday that it plans to pump $25 million into a new ad campaign running in ten battleground states including Colorado, Florida, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. The group’s announcement is a direct response to the Obama campaign’s pledge earlier this month to spend $25 million on ads this month. 

The first phase of Crossroads’ blitz will be a two-week run of the ad “Obama’s Promise,” which slams the president for supposedly failing to fulfill promises to help struggling homeowners, cut the deficit, and not raise taxes on working and middle class families. Crossroads says it will spend an initial $8 million on this push.

Here’s the ad:

To the average viewer, this spot resembles an open attack on President Obama. No one watching it would consider it anything but a call to vote for Obama’s opponent. But there’s a catch. Because the ad doesn’t tell viewers to “vote for Mitt Romney” or oppose Obama in the November election, it is not considered an overtly political ad. It is instead known as “issue advocacy.”

Here’s why that distinction matters. As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, Crossroads GPS can engage in politicking, but that can’t be the majority of what it does. Its focus, the law says, must be on promoting “social welfare” by discussing issues like debt, taxes, military spending, etc. And so when Crossroads runs so-called “issue” ads like “Obama’s Promise,” it allows them to bash Obama while staying on the right side of the law. Crossroads’ tax status also allows the group to keep secret its donors.

Make no mistake: this sort of dark money double-whammy is something you’ll see much, much more of between now and November.

More MotherJones reporting on Dark Money

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.