Hydra of independent groups fuels Republican side


Outside groups aligned with Republicans are dominating spending on independent expenditures in the run-up to the 2010 midterm elections. As of October 20, these groups have spent more than $99 million, more than twice as much as the party committees tasked with electing Republicans to the House of Representatives and the Senate, to both support Republican candidates and oppose Democratic candidates.

These non-party groups are supplanting the traditional role of party committees on the Republican side. Nearly all of the money spent on independent expenditures to support Republicans or oppose Democrats comes from groups that exclusively spend money to aid Republicans.

Four of the top five non-party spenders are supported and run by a series of political operatives who, in effect, make up the Republican Party in exile. American Crossroads, Crossroads GPS, The 60-Plus Association and Americans for Job Security are linked together by their connections to the power structure that won elections for the Republican Party from the 1990s to the end of the George W. Bush presidency. So far, these four organizations have spent $35.97 million attacking Democrats and praising Republicans.

By contrast, the official G.O.P. congressional committees — the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) — have spent a little less than $49 million on independent expenditures.

With the Republican National Committee (RNC) in shambles and the campaign committees hampered by contribution limits and disclosure rules, these outside groups have emerged as a replacement for the traditional party structure and they are largely being funded by a shadow establishment that operates in the dark without disclosure rules that have been ostensibly waived by the Supreme Court. There is no similar equivalent on the Democratic side.

The largest and highest spending of these groups is the two-headed organization comprised of American Crossroads, organized as a 527 and a Super PAC, and Crossroads GPS, organized as a 501(c)4 non-profit. These two organizations–both share the same PO Box number–are made up of the Republican Party in exile.

While Crossroads GPS, The 60-Plus Association and Americans for Job Security do not disclose their donors, American Crossroads is a so-called section 527 organization–named after the part of the tax code under which it’s organized–and has to disclose its donors to the Internal Revenue Service. It also reports some of these contributions to the Federal Election Commission.

The reports are filed monthly and after yesterday’s released disclosure American Crossroads is showing contributions exceeding $22 million. So far, the group has spent more than $16 million on independent expenditures in 24 different races.

The majority of this money has come from three donors and two corporations. Texas homebuilder Bob Perry has provided $7 million to American Crossroads. In 2004, Perry was a major funder of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a 527 group that ran ads assailing the Vietnam record of presidential candidate John Kerry. Perry also contributed millions to the Economic Freedom Fund, another 527 group that operated during the 2006 election cycle.

The other donors include Robert Rowling, a Bush Pioneer, and his company TRT Holding, which have contributed a combined amount exceeding $2 million. Alliance Resource Group, a company with large coal holdings, has contributed $2 million. The owner of Public Storage, Wayne Hughes, contributed $1 million.

Former White House Political Director Karl Rove and former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie are both affiliated with the Crossroads groups and are known to help raise money and provide strategy. Rove and Gillespie are perhaps the most well-known high-level Republican operatives involved in the Crossroads family, but they are not the only ones.

President Steven Law previously worked as deputy secretary of Labor in the George W. Bush administration and was the executive director of the NRSC in 2000. Former Republican National Committee chairman Mike Duncan is the chairman of the board of American Crossroads. Jo Ann Davidson, director of American Crossroads, was previously the co-chair of the Republican National Committee. Jim Dyke worked at the Department of Commerce under George W. Bush and is now secretary at American Crossroads.

The political director of American Crossroads is Carl Forti, a veteran operative specializing in running independent expenditure campaigns. Forti ran an $80 million operation at the NRCC in 2006. The Crossroads family that Forti runs has spent $26 million on independent expenditures so far this cycle.

Forti also runs the communications strategy firm Black Rock Group with Michael Dubke. Dubke also operates the organization Crossroads Media, which is not directly associated with the Crossroads family. Crossroads Media, however, is the media company for the Crossroads family and has received $20.89 million from American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS for media and advertising services.

Dubke is also connected to another big independent expenditure operator on the Republican side, Americans for Job Security. Dubke helped found Americans for Job Security and served as executive director and then president from 1997 to 2007.

Americans for Job Security operates out of the same office as Crossroads Media and the Black Rock Group and is currently run by Stephen DeMaura, the 25-year old former executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party. DeMaura is the only employee of the group. Crossroads Media has received $2.95 million from Americans for Job Security for media services in the 2010 midterms. This group has spent $4.39 million on independent expenditures so far this election.

Forti, the political director for the Crossroads family, also handles the PR and media profile of The 60-Plus Association. The 60-Plus Association was founded in 1992 as a conservative counter to a perceived liberal bias in the group senior citizen advocacy group AARP. So far, The 60-Plus Association has spent more than $5 million on independent expenditures.