“Independent” groups are a GOP network

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

NPR has an investigative report into self-styled "independent" groups that are pouring millions of corporate dollars into campaign ads. 'Independent' Groups Behind Ads Not So Independent:

It's a banner year for attack ads — and the organizations making them — partly due to the sea of cash unleashed by a Supreme Court decision [Citizens United v. FEC] early this year.

Advocacy groups have popped up all over the country, raising and spending millions of dollars — without having to name their donors. Never before has so much of the congressional election campaign been waged by groups that operate independently of the parties and candidates.

But in reality, those so-called independent groups may not be so independent after all.

Who Are They?

The groups often bear ambiguous names — Americans for Job Security, Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, the 60 Plus Association. Many of them live through the generosity of anonymous donors. The ambiguity and anonymity blur the public understanding of who these groups are.

So let's start with who they say they are.

One of the biggest players is American Crossroads… [Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie].

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Its sister organization, called Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, or Crossroads GPS, describes itself as a "grassroots advocacy organization that is committed to educating, equipping and mobilizing millions of American citizens."

Another group, Americans for Job Security, calls itself "the only independent, bi-partisan, pro-business issue advocacy organization in America."

* * *

And then there's the 60 Plus Association, which says it's a "non-partisan seniors advocacy group."

* * *

With these advertisers and others, the same words come up again and again: Grass-roots. Nonpartisan. Independent.

Their ads seem to imply the groups are homegrown. But every single one mentioned here is based within 20 minutes of Capitol Hill. Most of them, in fact, are in just two office suites.

As for their independence: It would be illegal for them to coordinate their attacks with the candidates they're helping, or with Republican Party committees. But among themselves, they're proud of the way they synchronize their efforts.

"If one group puts an ad on television in a certain congressional district, they let everyone else know that," says Jonathan Collegio with American Crossroads. "This way they don't double up on the advertising."

What They Do

This teamwork didn't happen by accident. But it's hard to grasp just how interconnected these secret donor groups are — so it may help to take a look at this map. (full size)

Nprweb 

This clearly isn't a bunch of individual, independent groups — as you can see from the map. It's one big network: a Republican campaign operation, working outside the official party.

The Other Side

This is not a new strategy. The cash flowed freely — and often in secret — two years ago. Except then it was mostly in support of Democrats.

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But what Democrats developed, Republicans have mastered.

A big reason why: money. Early this year, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations could spend unlimited amounts of money in partisan politics, and Republican advocacy groups have been flush with cash ever since. At the beginning of October, they had outspent Democratic groups by a 9-1 margin.

* * *

Where did much of money come from? Well, while American Crossroads has to disclose its donors, Crossroads GPS does not. It's a legal loophole that looms larger this year than ever before, even for those that claim to be grassroots organizations.

And it's enabled Republicans to build a wide and rich campaign network outside their party.

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