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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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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