On Tuesday, a lawyer for President Barack Obama filed a compliant with the Federal Elections Commission over Karl Rove’s organization, Crossroads GPS. Robert Bauer, the Obama campaign’s chief counsel, claimed the organization was unlawfully hiding its donors from the public by masquerading as a “social welfare” organization.
Legal action against Crossroads GPS is likely to succeed, according to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). But not until after the November elections.
“While there is a strong chance the lawsuit will be successful, it won’t be until long after the election is over,” CREW’s executive director Melanie Sloan told Raw Story in an email. “He hasn’t filed a lawsuit yet, just an FEC complaint and there is not much chance the FEC will do anything about this.
“By the time Obama can sue, the election will be over. By filing the complaint, however, Bauer is putting donors on notice that their identities may be revealed eventually. That may or may not impact the decision of some donors over whether or not to make a contribution.”
Crossroads GPS is currently registered as a nonprofit 501c(4) organization, allowing the pro-Republican group to receive unlimited funds without having to disclose its donors.
According to the IRS, nonprofit 501c(4) organizations “must operate primarily to further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community” and can engage in some political activity. However, the organizations may not campaign “on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office,” which is exactly what its critics claim Crossroads GPS has been doing.
“Crossroads seems to believe that it can run out the clock and spend massive sums of money in this election without accounting for a trace of its funding,” Bauer wrote in his complaint, arguing that Crossroads GPS was actually a political action committee.
Crossroads GPS and its sister organization, Crossroads America, have spent millions of dollars on ads attacking Democrats. Earlier this month, Crossroads GPS spent $7 million on a TV ad attacking Obama.
In response to the FEC complaint, Rove insisted Crossroads GPS is a 501c(4) organization and accused Obama’s lawyer of “intimidation.”
“It’s a social welfare organization because it spends the vast preponderance of its money in furtherance of its social welfare goals,” he told Fox News. “It’s an issue advocacy group. For example, it’s talking right now about the need to change our policies on spending and debt, how we’ve got to rein in the debt because we’re — our debt is growing at $4 billion a day and we need to begin to demonstrate some fiscal responsibility.”
Numerous advocacy groups, including CREW and Public Citizen, have blasted the use of 501c(4) organizations to hide political donors. But while pro-Republican groups may be the biggest offenders, they are not the only ones. The pro-Democrat group Priorities USA is a 501(c)(4) organization as well.
“This works two ways — Priorities USA also has a 501c(4) and the same rules will apply,” Sloan said.
On Thursday, Public Citizen president Robert Weissman led a protest outside the office of Crossroads GPS. Watch video, uploaded to YouTube, below:
[Image via Flickr user Sachyn, Creative Commons-licensed]