With Nov. 2 close upon us and with presidential candidates already emerging for 2012, both contests are looking like struggles between President Barack Obama and Karl Rove, the mastermind behind President George W. Bush’s campaigns.
Mr. Rove is assembling a team that already includes Fred Malek, a veteran political fixer for Richard Nixon and both Bushes, Ed Gillespie, a longtime Republican strategist and fundraiser, and Mary Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.
In the background is Rupert Murdoch’s powerful News Corp., owner of Fox News and The Wall Street Journal and numerous other publications. He recently gave $1 million each to the Republican Governors’ Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a strong Republican supporter and bitter critic of President Obama and his administration. Mr. Rove has been writing a regular column for The Journal. Politico has reported that every major potential Republican presidential candidate not holding elective office, except for Mitt Romney, is a paid contributor to Fox News.
Mr. Rove brought the group together in April to plan strategy and financing of an effort to capture both houses of Congress in November and the White House in 2012. They have put more than $4 million into key Senate races in a single week of advertising, according to The Associated Press. The report said the group now has spent nearly $14 million since August to support Republicans in eight Senate races in Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Colorado and Washington.
Their main vehicles are two new organizations, American Crossroads and Crossroad Grassroots Policy Strategies. These groups, which come under section 501(c) of the tax code, don’t generally have to identify their donors. Two finance watchdog organizations, Campaign Legal Center and De-mocracy 21, have asked the IRS to investigate them. They contend that Crossroads GPS “was organized to participate and intervene in the 2010 congressional races while providing donors to the organizations with a safe haven for hiding their role.”
Crossroads GPS is set up as a 501(c)4 nonprofit, meaning that its “primary purpose” must not be political. But, as The New York Times points out, IRS officials say that what may seem like political activity to a lay person may not be considered as such under the agency’s rules.
So existing law, weakened by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, is letting a flood of unidentified money flow into the congressional races, mainly this year to support Republican nominees.
This lack of transparency, which also allows unions and trade associations to pour money into Democratic campaigns, has troubling implications far beyond the coming election.