In this new series, we will attempt to explore the main characters evolving around the 2010 Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision. Each “card” will represent a character who symbolize one aspect of the Citizen United case.
These characters in fact are either directly linked to the case or are acting against or in favor of it. The full consequences of that decision still have to be determined as the 2012 Presidential campaign is still very much in its beginning. Yet, we can already evaluate the tremendous impact that Super PACs have on campaigns and political communication.
KARL ROVE | Political Consultant, Founder of American Crossroads
The former Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff of the Bush administration is a long time conservative figure. He’s currently adviser and board member of American Crossroads, a 527 organization that has raised and spent tens of millions of dollars to defend and elect Republican candidates to federal office.
According to Opensecret.org,
American Crossroads is a conservative group spearheaded by top Republican operatives. Karl Rove, the former top strategist for President George W. Bush, and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie encouraged the group’s formation and solicited donors for funds. Formed in 2010, American Crossroads initially reported its activities to the Internal Revenue Service as a so-called 527 organization. After the SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission federal court rule, which allowed outside groups that expressly advocate for or against federal candidates to raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions and individuals, American Crossroads registered with the FEC as an independent expenditure-only committee, better than as a super PAC. Steven Law — who previously worked in Bush’s Labor Department, served as Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell’s chief of staff, was the executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and served as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s general counsel — heads the group. It regularly disclosed its donors, but Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, a spin-off registered with the IRS as a 501(c)4 nonprofit group, does not.
See the numbers here
American Crossroads is very active during this Presidential Campaign and since the Republican Primaries are over, the organization starts to attack Mitt Romney’s opponent, Barack Obama.
According to Politico reporter Robin Bravender,
The Karl Rove-backed super PAC American Crossroads picked up steam in fundraising last month, raking in $4.6 million and stockpiling nearly $30 million to use against President Barack Obama and other Democrats. American Crossroads raised more in May than it has in any month since January after raising less than $2 million in both March and April. But despite the slight dropoff in recent months, the super PAC has continued to grow its cash reserves by spending relatively little.
Read more on politico.com
Part of the Rove’s organization, Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (Crossroads GPS) is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation that works in conjunction with American Crossroads. As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, Crossroads GPS’s primary purpose is the advancement of social welfare including public policy advocacy, although it is permitted to engage in political spending as well. Crossroads GPS is required to report what it spends, but it is not required to publicly disclose any donor information.
Mid june 2012, in a letter to Crossroads — and a complaint to the Federal Elections Commission — the president’s lawyer, Robert F. Bauer, demanded that Crossroads divulge its donors because it is a political committee and not, as it calls itself, a “social welfare” organization.
The GOP-aligned group Crossroads GPS has spent $7 million to air a new ad attacking President Barack Obama for “growing our debt faster than our economy.”
The ad, called “Stopwatch,” begins airing in 10 states on Tuesday night. It is part of a $25 million effort to focus national attention on jobs, the economy, taxes and debt. (Read more on the Huffington Post)
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Money & Elections
In Jan 2010, the Supreme Court deregulated the campaign finance laws in the United States, with a decision known as Citizens United vs. FEC.
This decision doesn’t change all the limits of campaign financing. For example, an individual can still donate $2500 to a candidate for each election, $5000 per election to a PAC (Political Action committee) or $30.800 per year to a party.
However, the real beneficiaries of the Citizens United decision are the Super PACs.
The main characteristic of the Super PACs is that they can raise unlimited funds to support any candidate of their choice. This support is mainly showed through political advertisements, which are for the most part “negative ads” attacking an opponent (see the American Crossroads ad against Barack Obama, or this ad by Priority USA attacking Mitt Romney). The only requirement is that the Supers PACs must remain completely independent and are forbidden to coordinate their communication efforts with the candidate they support and their party.
This does not prevent all contenders for the White House to have one or more affiliated Super PACs. For example, Restore our Future supports Mitt Romney, Winning our Future is a pro-Newt Gingrich Super PAC. Even Barack Obama is supported by Priority USA, even though he was against the Citizens United decision.
Federal authorities know the identity of the donors for these Super PACs. The Super PACs have indeed the obligation to file with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) the donor names and the amount of donations.
For donors who wish to remain anonymous, there is another way. The 501c4s.
These groups are NGO’s that doesn’t have to disclose the names of their donors but - like the Super PACs – they can raise as much money as they wish.
The money spent in TV ads by these groups is called “independent expenditures” and between 2006 and 2012, these “independent expenditures” increased by 338%. At the same time, untraceable donations increased by 47%.
Since the beginning of the Republican primaries in 2011, independent groups have spent nearly $ 76.6 million, all candidates combined.
For the 2012 Presidential elections, American Crossroads, a Super PAC formed by Karl Rove, former G.W Bush Senior advisor, has planned to spend nearly $ 240 million.The Kock brothers have planned to spend nearly $ 100 million.
Consequences for the average Tv spectator are this: In Iowa, nearly 12 ads were broadcasted per hour. During the primaries in South Carolina nearly 182 ads were aired in a week. And more recently, for the primaries in Florida, Romney bombarded the local TV viewers with 12.000 ads a week before the vote (src: Wesleyan Media Project). Some of these ads can cost up to $750.000, sometimes even more.
All this for one purpose: influence American votes.
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