by Kim Barker, ProPublica.
Two conservative nonprofits, Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity, have poured almost $60 million into TV ads to influence the presidential race so far, outgunning all Super PACs put together, new spending estimates show.
These nonprofits, also known as 501(c)(4)s or c4s for their section of the tax code, don’t have to disclose their donors to the public.
The two nonprofits had outspent all other types of outside spending groups in this election cycle, including political parties, unions, trade associations and political action committees, a ProPublica analysis of data provided by Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, or CMAG, found.
Super PACs, which do have to report their donors, spent an estimated $55.7 million on TV ads mentioning a presidential candidate, CMAG data shows. Parties spent $22.5 million.
Crossroads GPS, or Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, is the brainchild of GOP strategist Karl Rove, and spent an estimated $41.7 million. Americans for Prosperity, credited with helping launch the Tea Party movement, is backed in part by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, and spent an estimated $18.2 million.
Campaign-finance reform advocates say the spending by the two organizations highlights the role anonymous money is playing in this election, which will be the most expensive in history.
“First of all, it shows how much desire there is for secrecy among huge donors who want to be able to spend money to influence this election without leaving any fingerprints,” said Fred Wertheimer, who runs Democracy 21, a watchdog group. “Secondly, it shows that so far, there is an enormous advantage being played in this election by just two groups that are exercising undue influence in the elections.”
In an email, Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for Crossroads GPS, defended the group’s work. Wertheimer’s concern reflected partisan bias, he charged.