Crossroads GPS is one of the top 15 dark money groups examined by Issue One’s new “Dark Money Illuminated” report that has been spending millions of dollars in our elections since Citizens United without publicly disclosing their donors. Dark money groups frequently operate as attack dogs during campaigns, criticizing candidates from the shadows. Dark money groups also often push the envelope in terms of how much political spending they can engage in without running afoul of rules that prohibit them from existing primarily to influence elections. By masquerading as a trade association or “social welfare” nonprofit, dark money groups avoid the mandatory donor disclosure rules that would come with registering as a political committee whose primary purpose is to influence elections.
Here’s what Issue One’s year-long “Dark Money Illuminated” investigation revealed:
Crossroads GPS raised
between June 2010 and December 2016.
Issue One identified
donors to this dark money group.
These donors collectively accounted for
of its funding.
Issue One found 7 donors that gave at least $100,000 since June 2010:
Republican Jewish Coalition: $4 million
Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care: $500,000
American Health Care Association: $450,000
Kentucky Opportunity Coalition: $350,000
Main Street Advocacy Fund: $150,000
Property Casualty Insurers Association of America: $150,000
AGC Construction Advocacy Fund (formerly AGC Public Awareness and Advocacy Fund): $100,000
Note: These numbers have been rounded to two significant figures. Click here to see more details about these contributions — and all identified donors to this group — in Issue One’s exclusive database of dark money donors, and click here to learn more about how these contributors were identified.
About Crossroads GPS
Crossroads GPS (also known as Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies) was conceived in the months following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision by Republican operatives including GOP strategist Karl Rove, a former senior advisor to President George W. Bush. It quickly became one of the best-known political dark money groups of the post-Citizens United era.
According to documents the group — which is organized as a “social welfare” nonprofit under Sec. 501(c)(4) of the tax code — filed with the Internal Revenue Service, its political spending typically spikes in election years. In the years featuring the 2010, 2012 and 2014 elections, for example, nearly 40 percent of Crossroads GPS’ spending went toward “direct or indirect political campaign activities.” In non-election years, that percentage has frequently been zero.
In October 2010, good-government groups urged the IRS to “investigate whether Crossroads GPS has a primary purpose of ‘participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to’ candidates for public office.”
In December 2013, the Federal Election Commission deadlocked 3-3 in response to a complaint about whether Crossroads GPS should have registered as a political committee, which would have required the group to disclose its donors.
Crossroads GPS was also the subject of a nearly five-and-a-half-year investigation by the IRS into whether its substantial political spending disqualified it from tax-exemption under Section 501(c)(4) of the tax code. In September 2013, the IRS was prepared to rule against the group, but Crossroads GPS’ lawyers fought back. And in November 2015, the IRS retroactively granted Crossroads GPS tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, allowing the group to keep its donors secret.
Crossroads GPS was spun off from its sister super PAC, known as American Crossroads, which was also formed in 2010. Carl Forti, a political consultant and Rove protégé who served as Crossroads GPS’ political director, once acknowledged that donors appreciated the anonymity afforded by Crossroads GPS’ tax status. “Some donors didn’t want to be disclosed,” he said at a conference in 2010. “They were more comfortable giving to a (c)(4), and so we created one.”
When it applied for tax-exempt status, Crossroads GPS told the IRS it planned to raise money from “individuals, corporations and other organizations who support the mission of the organization.” To this day, nearly all of those donors remain anonymous, although Crossroads GPS has reportedly received substantial checks from Las Vegas casino magnates Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson.
Steven Law is the president of Crossroads GPS. Law is a former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and previously worked in senior roles at the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In the 1990s, Law served as the chief of staff to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
- 60 Plus Association
- American Action Network
- Americans for Job Security
- Americans for Prosperity
- Americans for Tax Reform
- American Future Fund
- League of Conservation Voters
- National Association of Realtors
- National Rifle Association
- Patriot Majority USA
- Planned Parenthood Action Fund
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce
- VoteVets Action Fund