Posts Tagged ‘Karl Rove’

New Regulations to Shake Up Nonprofit Advocacy

Monday, December 9th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

IT HAS BEEN over half a century since restrictions on tax-exempt 501(c)4 organizations – defined broadly as civic leagues and groups whose primary function is to “promote social welfare” – were spelled out in detail. It was then, in 1959, that the IRS modified “social welfare” to exclude “direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns.”  Since modern (c)4’s must play by the rules lest they relinquish their tax free privileges, it seems on the face of it that they would avoid meddling in politics.

But everyone knows this isn’t the case. Crossroads GPS, the (c)4 arm of Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, is a case in point. The conservative advocacy group spent over $213,000 on federal elections last year. How, one might ask, is that permissible? Check the fine print: According to the IRS, “an organization that primarily engages in activities that promote social welfare will be considered under the current regulations to be operating exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.” It’s easy to engage “exclusively” in something when the meaning of the word is watered down beyond recognition. According to the Washington Post, tax lawyers have taken all of this to mean that (c)4’s can keep their tax status as long as they spend at least 51 percent of their resources on social welfare.

Now, nearly 55 years since the issue was last dealt with in depth, the IRS is proposing clearer boundaries for political activities that should not be considered social welfare. An outline released just two weeks ago proposing the rules changes is considered by most experts to be a significant first step, signalling what’s likely to result in drastic revisions to current practice. Still, some are skeptical about the potential outcome, claiming that so-called “dark money” will simply filter out of (c)4’s and into other 501(c)s, such as (c)6’s. Others, mostly on the right, call the proposal a political move, the latest in an “unfortunate pattern” that began with the IRS’s targeting of conservative grassroots advocacy groups.  Whichever one’s take on the matter, (c)4’s are inevitably in for the makeover of a lifetime.

Brief Profile of the Super PAC of Super PACs

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

RESTORE OUR FUTURE, the largest Super PAC to date, is the fundraising behemoth that was behind the Romney campaign.  Its millions buttressed the ad blitz that arrested Speaker Gingrich’s primary momentum.  Its donors have included millionaires, billionaires, federal contractors, and a phantom company that PAC, American Crossroads). A no less cogent designation has been applied to RoF’s very own Larry McCarthy, “attack ads’ go-to guy.”  McCarthy is none other than the man who created the paragon of attack ads, the 30-second Willie Horton broadcast  that knocked the wind out of Michael Dukakis.  Though the Horton bit remains matchless, McCarthy’s Iowa ads stirred just as much frustration in their target (Gingrich), and in the fact-checkers who bestowed them with four Pinocchios.

The Sunlight Foundation has a webpage called “Follow the Unlimited Money,” which reveals how RoF’s cash is spent. So far 90% of its expenditures have been piled on attack ads,  $89 million of which opposed Democrats and  $40 million of which opposed Republicans.  The remaining 10% went to positive ads for Republicans.  A Democrat has yet to receive a dime.

Who’s Afraid of American Crossroads?

Friday, October 8th, 2010 by Vbhotla

Like you didn’t see that one coming: a pair of campaign-finance watchdog groups have asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate Crossroads GPS, a conservative nonprofit that is spending heavily (and when we say “spending heavily,” we mean it), to influence the midterm elections.

Karl Rove

If you watch the news, read Politico, or dig around the FEC site as a pastime (not us… ok maybe a few Friday nights FEC.gov has provided entertainment), you have heard about American Crossroads. Since its creation earlier this year, many in the media have cast shadows of doubt on the activities of the political grassroots organization.

So we decided to whip up a quick, fact-based rundown for those who aren’t clear on what American Crossroads is, think Crossroads GPS might be a global positional system, or are just excited by anything that comes out of the prolific mind of Karl Rove (you know who you are).

FACT 1: American Crossroads is not a cover for an underground mobster. It is actually organized as a 527 committee under the IRS tax code, has a DC office, and even a phone number that you can call on. And, being a 527 group, it’s actually within legal limits to collect unlimited contributions. While it remains to be seen if the FEC or IRS will crack down on it for abusing the law as alleged, on paper at least, it seems to be cautious and regularly filing its required documents within deadlines.

FACT 2: Crossroads GPS is not a space-based global positioning system. It is, however, an offshoot of American Crossroads, formed last June as a 501(c)(4). And because it has a 501 (c)(4) status, it does not have to disclose its donors. However, since a majority of a 501(c)(4) nonprofit’s activities must be apolitical, Crossroads is in the hot seat as yet another nonprofit allegedly operating as a lobbying outfit that doesn’t get to pay taxes.

FACT3: While Karl Rove is one of the founders of American Crossroads, he doesn’t actually run its daily operations. He’s more of an informal advisor, the fundraising brains, guru — you get the drift. A guy named Steven Law is the CEO (for those of you who don’t read your Wash Reps Weekly, Law is a former deputy secretary of labor in the Bush administration and was previously general counsel to the US Chamber of Commerce).

The FEC filings of American Crossroads show that between mid-August and early October, the organization had already filed 21 contribution notices, reporting massive media spending of almost $18 million. Just to give a rough idea of the nature of the contributions, they include media expenses to oppose the campaigns of Democrats Michael Bennett (Colo.) and Jack William Conway (Ky.), and to support Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), among others.

While one can argue against the wisdom of the FEC and IRS laws being too easy to manipulate, it can’t be denied that American Crossroads seems to have done its homework and done it well. If there’s a scandal in here, it’s definitely not flagrant and in-your-face a la Abramoff.

Movie Review: “Casino Jack and the United States of Money”

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010 by Drew

My favorite part of the new documentary film about lobbying, “Casino Jack and the United States of Money” occurs in the first half hour of the film. It is a brief clip of archival footage used to show how Jack Abramoff—the former lobbyist whose greed and hubris led to his conviction for fraud and corruption in 2006—grew out of the same “radical” Republican student movement of the 70s and 80s that spawned Grover Norquist and Karl Rove. The clip is of Rove, looking about 14 years old, talking to a reporter about the ascendant College Republicans. It’s fascinating not so much because of what Rove is saying, but because in the clip Rove has hair, a lot of it, shaped in what today would be described as an emo-style haircut. It is glorious, and well worth the price of admission.

Whether the rest of the film is worth watching is up for debate. The film’s director, Alex Gibney (whose “Taxi to the Dark Side” won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2008) portrays Abramoff as a thick-necked charmer who, as chairman of the College Republican National Committee, developed a paranoid anti-communist worldview that eventually led to his staging of a meeting of rebel leaders in Angola. After leaving politics for a stint in Hollywood (where he produced an anti-communist action film starring Dolph Lundgren called “Red Scorpion”, clips of which rival the one of Rove for awesomeness) Abramoff wound up in Washington working as a lobbyist. The rest is history.

Gibney chronicles Abramoff’s criminal activities in detail, and they’re familiar enough that I don’t need to summarize them here. Through archival footage and compelling interviews with Tom DeLay, Neil Volz and Bob Ney, Gibney deftly explains what Abramoff’s crimes were and how he went about committing them. But though this movie is ostensibly about Abramoff and his shenanigans, it’s actually an attempt to portray the entire lobbying system as hopelessly corrupt. As anti-lobbying propaganda, it pretty much works. The problem is, as those in and around K Street know, lobbying isn’t the innately evil industry Gibney tries to make it out to be. Yes, it has problems; so does every other industry. But as we’ve shown before on the Lobby Blog, there are “good” lobbyists too. Unfortunately, most viewers ofCasino Jack and the United States of Money probably won’t ever hear their side of the story.

Watch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TQXjV3g-Lc.

Casino Jack and the United States of Money is playing at the E Street Cinema and Bethesda Row Cinema.