Yesterday I offered some criticism regarding the debate over secret, outside money flowing to political campaigns in the 2010 midterms. The point of the post was that as the pundits and press quibble over process and legality, the more immediate problem is getting missed — the ads these secret donations are funding tend to be deceptive. Below is a perfect example of why the media is missing it.
Among those mentioned yesterday was Karl Rove, co-founder of American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS. The first is a Super PAC, a classification created in the wake of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, and must disclose its donors. The second is a 501(c)(4) non-profit group which needn’t disclose its donors’ identities. Crossroads GPS and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which maintains a 501(c)(6), came under fire from the Obama administration and other Democrats earlier this month.
On Sunday morning (Oct. 24) Rove went on CBS’ Face the Nation to, once again, declare those who question his groups’ methods to be “hypocritical.” Rove’s supporting evidence was just as deceptive as an American Crossroads television spot.
Via Talking Points Memo:
Appearing on Face The Nation, Karl Rove defended the fundraising and spending of his group American Crossroads, which the White House has attacked for not disclosing its funding sources. In response, Rove said that Prescient Obama benefitted from over $400 million in outside support during the 2008 campaign: “And if liberals do it and nobody complains about it, it strikes me as somewhat hypocritical when conservatives adopt their strategies and follow their models and conservatives get criticized by the President of the United States by name.”
Rove is deliberately misleading here. According to OpenSecrets, of the nearly $750 million raised by the Obama presidential campaign, 90.2 percent was disclosed. The $400 million figure cited by Rove is particularly curious when you consider that the total amount of outside money spent on all candidates — Democrats and Republicans – during the 2008 cycle was just over $300 million. On top of these distortions, consider that Obama actively discouraged Democratic donors from going through outside groups.
Then Rove falsely attacked conservatives’ second favorite target: organized labor.
“Four unions alone will have, according to their own announcements, spent $220 million in money on elections this year,” Rove said.
“We know who they are,” [Host, Bob Schieffer] said, pointing out that labor unions must disclose where their funding comes from.
“No, you don’t, Bob,” Rove replied, and claimed that the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)was not being forthcoming.
I’m uncertain if the dollar amount is right, but Rove’s assertion about the disclosure of Labor’s campaign contributions was debunked by Politico’s Ben Smith, Oct. 8:
…when it comes to disclosure, talk of unions is a red herring. While they aren’t required by the FEC or IRS to disclose donors, a separate piece of federal law, the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, requires that unions disclose all sources of income that adds up to more than $5,000, a requirement overseen by the Department of Labor. As a result, unions disclose more than many political groups about their internal operations, and certainly more than than do 501(c)(4) nonprofits like Crossroads GPS or 501(c)(6) groups like the Chamber.
This is just Rove doing his usual tap-dance around the actual argument by creating his own. Rove wants to argue about all outside money while the controversy is primarily over the secret, undisclosed donations. Bob Schieffer’s asking about apples, and Rove is talking about oranges that he’s actually presenting as grapefruits.
Greg Sargent put together an informal, apples to apples comparison of liberal v. conservative undisclosed contributions based upon figures from the Sunlight Foundation, Oct. 22:
The total on the right: $74,733,356. On the left: $9,868,057. And the groups on the left, unlike on the right, consist of well-known names like the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife.
Lastly, consider this the next time you hear Rove call anyone a hypocrite:
“I am a firm believer in strong (political) parties, and things that weaken the parties and place the outcome of elections in the hands of billionaires who can write checks and political consultants who can get themselves hired by billionaires who write the checks, give me some concern.”
Karl Rove, 2004
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