Mother Jones: “It Takes Dark Money to Make Dark Money”

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In recent weeks, Bill’s been highlighting organizations fighting for transparency and disclosure involving the torrents of cash unleashed by Citizens United. Groups like Democracy 21, New America Foundation, ProPublica, the Campaign Legal Center and others are working hard to help people find out who’s behind the negative political ads hijacking our airwaves.

But what about those on the other side? Who’s hiding behind the curtain fighting to keep the status quo?

For part of the answer, don’t miss Andy Kroll’s excellent article on Mother Jones today that tracks some of the spending of Crossroads GPS, one of two conservative groups tied to Karl Rove. In 2011, GPS raised $76.8 million dollars. In addition to bankrolling negative ads attacking Obama or Democrats in local races, GPS has made multi-million-dollar payouts to likeminded groups such as Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, the National Right to Life Committee and the less well-known Center for Individual Freedom. (More on them in a minute.)

Karl Rove (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Karl Rove (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

GPS is a nonprofit, “social welfare” group organized under section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code. According to a new report released today by the Center for Public Integrity:

“[U]nlike the super PAC, GPS is prohibited from making politics its ‘primary purpose,’ according to the IRS, a rule that these politically active nonprofits have interpreted to mean they can spend up to 49 percent of their funds on such advertising.

As a nonprofit, the group is not required to publicly name its donors, except if they give ‘for the purpose of furthering’ a political advertisement. (GPS has told the FEC that it has not ‘solicited or received’ contributions earmarked for such expenditures.)” Read more »

So it’s really no surprise that one of the top “non-political” expenditures made by GPS was to the Center for Individual Freedom, because, as Kroll writes:

Among political money experts, CFIF is known for its aggressive legal strategy aimed at toppling disclosure laws at the state level. In other words, Crossroads GPS, which doesn’t name its donors, gave millions to another dark-money group whose goals include fighting to keep dark money in the dark.

Spokesman Jonathan Collegio wrote in an email that Crossroads GPS’ donations to ‘effective center right organizations’ such as CFIF are intended to ‘help build an enduring infrastructure on the right — just as labor unions have funded organizations on the Left for decades.'”

Greasing the wheels of the dark money machine must be an important part of that infrastructure: GPS gave CFIF nearly $3 million.

Read more about CFIF’s anti-disclosure efforts at

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