Rove-Tied Outside Groups Say They’re Here to Stay
There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the announcement made by American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS — the sister groups that Republican strategists Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie helped conceive — that they will continue advertising against Democrats after the elections when Congress returns and debates over extending the Bush-era tax cuts and enacting immigration reform resumes. “It’s a bigger prize in 2012, and that’s changing the White House,” Robert Duncan, the chairman of American Crossroads, said. “We’ve planted the flag for permanence, and we believe that we will play a major role for 2012.”
One small fact most commentaries about the announcement are missing is that such a decision for 501(c)(4) groups like Crossroads GPS may not simply be a matter of keeping the positive momentum going — it’s also a means of balancing the group’s ledger so that its “primary purpose” doesn’t look like electing federal candidates by the time the group files its tax returns in 2011. By advocating on issues following the elections, in other words, Crossroads GPS can drive down the percentage of its spending on election activities, a percentage that many watchdog campaign finance groups have complained is well beyond the 50 percent mark now. According to the tax code, section 501(c) nonprofits’ primary purpose can’t be to elect candidates for office.
That said, the announcement also has strategic implications for Democrats, many of whom are already making the worried case that left-leaning groups must quickly create an equally viable outside spending infrastructure in order to compete with Republicans going forward:
The two sides agree that should the donations continue to roll in as Mr. Duncan says he expects, his organization and its allies will be in a position to pummel Mr. Obama and his party with advertisements throughout the Republican primary season.
That would provide a potent first wave of attack while the Republican candidates focus on fighting one another for the right to challenge the president. It would also allow the national Republican Party to hoard its cash for the general election and put pressure on the Democratic National Committee to spend some of its war chest.