Karl Rove’s Crossroads Non-Profit at the Heart of IRS Targeting and Election Commission Clashes
Crossroads GPS, the conservative nonprofit helmed by consultant Karl Rove, was one of several right-wing organizations allegedly targeted by Lois Lerner, the former IRS official in charge approving tax-exempt status for applicants. Crossroads applied for a 501(c)4 designation by the IRS, making it a “social-welfare” group that could avoid paying taxes and disclosing the identities of its donors.
The Republican-controlled House Ways and Means Committee voted this week to ask the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to pursue criminal charges against Lerner. (The action is unlikely to have any effect, since both Lerner and the IRS are already being investigated by the DOJ.) GOP lawmakers cited Crossroads as one of the victims of Lerner’s alleged singling out of conservative organizations seeking 501(c)4 status.
“Ms. Lerner took it upon herself ... [to] direct both the Crossroads GPS’s audit and a proposed denial for tax-exempt status,” Representative Dave Camp (R-Michigan), the committee’s chairman, said during a closed-door session, according to National Public Radio. “Ms. Lerner repeated these activities with other conservative groups but never left-leaning organizations which were also referred to the IRS.”
Documents released by the committee revealed that Lerner had decided by 2013, three years after Rove applied for tax-exempt status, to reject the application. By then, Crossroads had spent $165 million attacking Democrats and helping Republicans during the 2012 election.
“After applying to the IRS in September 2010, Crossroads started spending, and campaign-finance watchdogs started complaining. An IRS panel considered taking a deeper look at Crossroads twice — in November 2010 and June 2011 — but rejected the idea both times,” according to ProPublica.
Rove’s operation also has sparked controversy over at the FEC, whose Republican commissioners publicly attacked the Democrats’ leading member over a Crossroads-related matter.
In December, the commission deadlocked over a decision to have FEC staff investigate Crossroads, which Democrats contend is a partisan campaign machine.
Since that non-decision, campaign finance reform groups have filed a lawsuit seeking to force the FEC to probe Crossroads.
Democrat Ann Ravel, the FEC’s vice chair, abstained in the commission’s vote to defend the agency against the litigation—an action that provoked a heated attack from GOP commissioners.
“Commissioner Ravel has gone to extraordinary and unprecedented lengths to try to censor presentation of the agency’s rationale for its prosecutorial decision in the Crossroads GPS matter,” FEC Chairman Lee Goodman, along with fellow Republicans Caroline Hunter and Matthew Petersen, wrote in a statement (pdf).
The FEC has been “failing to enforce the nation’s campaign finance laws,” Ravel wrote in The New York Times. Whether her actions cause “furor or not, I’m here to do what’s best for the public and to fulfill the purposes of the FEC,” she told the Center for Public Integrity. “It’s about disclosure.”
To Learn More:
Mudslinging at the FEC over Disclosure (by Julie Patel, Center for Public Integrity)
What Newly Released Docs Tell Us About the IRS and How It Handles Dark Money Groups (by Kim Barker and Theodoric Meyer, ProPublica)
Crossroads GPS At Heart Of GOP's Lois Lerner Probe (by S.V. Date, National Public Radio)
GOP Says IRS’ Lois Lerner Targeted Crossroads (by Rachael Bade, Politico)
Federal Election Commission Lawyers Call for Investigation of Illegal Activity by Karl Rove Super PAC…No Action Expected (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Karl Rove Group Pours Anonymous Millions into Anti-Obama Ads (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
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