People For the American Way

Two Powerhouse 501(c)(4) ‘Social Welfare Groups’ Buy Election Anonymously

According to a new article in ProPublica by Kim Barker, two ‘dark money’ 501 (c)(4) conservative social welfare groups, Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity, have outspent all super-PACs combined on advertising, pumping nearly $60 million into this year’s presidential election cycle so far. And what’s more is that they are doing it without disclosure.

Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategy, the brainchild of Republican political strategist Karl Rove, has spent a staggering $41.7 million on ads through Aug. 8th. Americans for Prosperity, run by Tim Phillips but largely associated with its billionaire backers, the notorious brothers Charles and David Koch, has spent $18.2 million in the same time. To put these numbers in perspective: all this outside, anonymous spending has occurred while both presidential campaigns combined have only spent $22 million.


The totals spent are based on data collected by Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, or CMAG. The totals reflect estimates of expenditures on broadcast TV ads and differ from totals reported to the Federal Election Commission.

As Fred Wertheimer explains in the article: “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.”

Secrecy is a priority of these 501(c)(4)s and their clandestine donors. There are laws on the books empowering the IRS and FEC to force these organizations to disclose their donors, but these have been largely ignored. Thus, Americans for Prosperity, Crossroads GPS, and other similar organizations have carte-blanche to unduly influence this year’s election. Until we have common sense restrictions on big money in politics and stringent disclosure laws, not only are America’s elected positions on the auction block, but we do not even know who is buying them.


Americans for Prosperity, Charles Koch, Crossroads GPS, David Koch, Karl Rove, money in politics, secret money, Super PAC, Tim Phillips