July 24, 2012 – Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against Crossroads GPS for failing to report television advertisements it ran against three Democratic Senate candidates to the FEC. None of the candidates has held public office in years, yet the Crossroads GPS ads urge voters to contact the candidates and tell them to support or oppose policies they have no role in making. Crossroads GPS is trying to treat these ads as “issue ads” that do not need to be reported to the FEC, but all of them clearly are political.
“Crossroads GPS wants to have its cake and eat it too. Karl Rove’s secretive 501(c)(4) wants to run political ads without complying with the disclosure rules applicable to such ads,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “By disguising political ads as issue ads, Crossroads is trying to do an end run around the law.”
Crossroads GPS has run the ads against Democratic Senate candidates Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, and Tim Kaine of Virginia. Federal election law requires any person or group that makes an independent expenditure advocating the election or defeat of a candidate to file reports about the spending with the FEC. By not filing any such reports, Crossroads GPS violated the law.
Crossroads GPS has a strong incentive to avoid having these ads labeled as independent expenditures. To maintain its tax-exempt status as a “social welfare” organization, Crossroads GPS cannot make politics its primary activity. Because the Internal Revenue Service considers independent expenditures political activity, Crossroads GPS needs as many of its ads as possible to be treated as non-political issue ads.
“Obviously, these candidates can’t vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act or decrease the budget deficit. Pretending these ads are not political makes a mockery of federal election and tax law,” continued Ms. Sloan. “Then again, making a mockery of the FEC is redundant.”