When the Supreme Court’s right-wing majority dismantled a century’s worth of law governing political money in the Citizens United decision, there was every reason to believe that Americans would obliviously accede. Only the most outlandish abuses — such as the huge sacks of cash raised and spent by Richard Nixon’s henchmen during the Watergate era — have ever mobilized citizens to demand reform. But this year Karl Rove, once Nixon’s young apprentice, is among those provoking public outrage again with secret sewer millions and sleazy advertising.
As the Bush White House political czar, Rove sought to build permanent Republican dominance of American politics and government. Today he pursues the same goal, building a gigantic political machine known as Crossroads GPS that with characteristic effrontery he denotes a “social welfare” organization under IRS and Federal Election Commission rules. Not only can they avoid paying taxes on multi-million-dollar donations from wealthy individuals and corporate interests, but they can lawfully conceal donors’ identities.
The FEC’s politically appointed commissioners habitually accept such absurd explanations but the IRS isn’t so pliable. As Dan Froomkin and Paul Blumenthal observe in the Huffington Post, an IRS audit that uncovers serious violations of Crossroads’ tax-exempt status — such as misusing money for political campaigns rather than promoting social welfare — could result in dire consequences. Substantial civil penalties might be levied and Crossroads just might be required to disclose those hidden names. None of that will happen, if ever, until after November.