WASHINGTON — The White House stepped up attacks Sunday on what it described as a tidal wave of secret outside money pouring into Republican campaign ads ahead of November 2 midterm elections.
“To win this election, they are plowing tens of millions of dollars into front groups that are running misleading, negative ads all across America,” White House advisor David Axelrod told CNN’s “State of the Union” program.
“And they don’t have the courage to stand up and disclose their identities — they could be insurance companies, or Wall Street banks or foreign-owned corporations. We will not know because there’s no disclosure.”
Top White House spokesman Robert Gibbs challenged the funders, accused by Democrats of unfairly tipping the balance in the direction of the Republicans, to reveal themselves.
He told NBC television’s “Meet the Press” program that the donors “could simply open up the books, could simply show people exactly where the donations are coming from and who’s paying for the ads.”
Axelrod and Gibbs both pointed to Republican strategist Karl Rove — former president George W. Bush’s political guru — as one of the key sources of the funds.
Rove has become a major player in the current election via his group American Crossroads and its non-profit affiliate, Crossroads GPS, which have partnered with other conservative groups to launch a final ad blitz.
“Karl Rove’s group is going to plunk 50 million dollars in the last three weeks of the House races — more than the Democratic Congressional Committee will spend in the entire cycle,” said Axelrod.
“There’s something fundamentally wrong with that, and if they don’t want to disclose who their money is coming from there’s a reason,” he said.
“They don’t want to say this ad was brought to you by Wall Street, this ad who wants to repeal financial reform, this ad was brought to you by the health insurance industry who wants to repeal health insurance reform. This ad was brought to you by the oil industry that doesn’t want to have to be responsible when they leak oil in the Gulf of Mexico.”
US President Barack Obama and other top Democrats have accused conservatives of using groups like Crossroads, which does not disclose its donors, of trying to buy the election with shadowy funders.
Corporations and unions cannot make any direct contributions to candidates, but under the US Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” ruling in January they can use their general treasury funds for independent expenditures as long as they do not coordinate directly with campaigns.
Independent groups — not openly linked to the political parties — can therefore suck up unlimited corporate cash and spill it on elections without revealing the source of their largesse.
Conservative groups currently dominate the spending binge — profiting from Republican grassroots anger over the Obama administration ahead of the election.
Republicans have dismissed the White House concerns as simply bitterness over expected big losses in the upcoming polls, arguing that the campaign finance rules are the same for both sides.