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Who's Funding American Crossroads?

Lately we’ve been talking about the vast amounts of money that the super-wealthy have been pouring into politics with the hope of buying elections for pro-corporations, anti-worker candidates who will further tip the scales of power against working people’s interests.

One of the key front groups for the 1 percent is Crossroads. “Crossroads” is actually multiple groups formed by former GOP operatives Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, with the shared goal of electing anti-worker candidates. The most important entities within the Crossroads family are American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS.

American Crossroads is a super PAC organized under IRS code section 527. Super PACs are independent expenditure-only committees with the express purpose of electing or defeating candidates.

The famous Citizens United line of cases lifted federal prohibitions on these groups accepting donations from corporations and unions, and now independent expenditures are the fastest growing category of campaign spending (though unions remain a fraction of all political spending). Even though these groups can accept money from just about anyone, they have a legal obligation to disclose to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) where their funds are coming from, so we are able to find out who’s funding the right-wing attack machine.

So who is funding American Crossroads?

There’s Harold Simmons, who, Rolling Stone reports,

[t]raffics in toxic chemicals and hazardous waste as head of Contran; owns one of the world's largest producers of titanium. A former corporate raider nicknamed "Ice Man," he pioneered the leveraged-buyout tactics that decimated American industry.…Plans to store radioactive waste from 36 states in an underground dump in Texas; has been sued repeatedly by the Justice Department for failing to clean up contaminated Superfund sites.

Simmons also funded the infamous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth group back in 2004 and has already given more than $18 million to GOP candidates, PACs and 501(c)(4) groups. Simmons also has given through his holding company Contran.

Then there’s billionaire real estate magnate Bob Perry, who has made a name for himself through GOP campaign contributions as much as for shoddy construction. And let’s not forget billionaire coal man Joe Craft, who has a thing for running dangerous coal mines. The list of contributors also includes Crow Holdings, controlled by Harlan Crow, a good buddy of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and collector of statues of dictators.

The other major wing of the Crossroads empire, Crossroads GPS, is classified as a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, the entity type preferred by corporations and others who do not wish for their political activities to be known because such groups provide no disclosure of donors. In fact, Crossroads political director Carl Forti actually stated in a public forum hosted by factcheck.org that “Crossroads GPS was formed…because “some donors didn’t want to be disclosed” and were “more comfortable” giving to an entity that keeps donors’ names secret.” (Sometimes, though, corporations end up accidentally spilling the beans on their own, like when insurance giant Aetna accidentally made public more than $10 million in political contributions to pro-“business” groups.)

The Crossroads groups are expected to spend $300 million in the 2012 election cycle. So far, disclosed spending by American Crossroads has already exceeded $12 million on races that are just beginning and has reportedly spent nearly $42 million so far. Even with all of that money, it still doesn’t look like American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS can afford to be honest. While Rove has tried to brag about his attacks, fact-checkers continue to point out the misleading editing and all-out lies used in Crossroads’ ads. Crossroads GPS even had to pull an ad they ran against North Dakota Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp because it was so grossly false but ended up running a misleading replacement that was still full of misinformation.

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