By Melanie Mason
1:36 PM CST, December 5, 2012
One of the biggest outside spenders in the 2012 election has turned its focus to the "fiscal cliff" debate.
Crossroads GPS, the conservative nonprofit founded in part by GOP strategist Karl Rove, released a new ad Wednesday slamming President Obama's opening bid in the negotiations to avert year-end tax increases and spending cuts. The spot says the president's plan -- which closely hews to his 2013 budget proposal -- offers "a huge tax increase" and "no real spending reforms."
The ad is to run on national cable networks for one week starting Thursday.
The $500,000 buy marks the reemergence of a group that had been a fixture on the airwaves in the run-up to the 2012 election. Crossroads GPS spent at least $71 million on ads for the election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Because it is a nonprofit, it does not disclose its donors.
Its sister organization, the "super PAC" American Crossroads, spent nearly $105 million in the 2012 season. Its donors, who are disclosed to the Federal Election Commission, are among the biggest donors in the Republican Party, including Houston homebuilder Bob Perry and Dallas investor Harold Simmons.
But much of the two groups’ spending failed to produce its desired effect. The Sunlight Foundation analyzed the "return on investment" for outside political groups -- a calculation of how much money led to the intended electoral outcome. Crossroads GPS logged a 14.4% return on investment; American Crossroads was a meager 1.29%.
In recent weeks, Crossroads GPS signaled that it would turn toward lobbying, using its substantial resources to run advocacy campaigns. The emphasis on issues, instead of elections, enables the group to maintain its nonprofit 501(c)4 status. That designation -- as a "social welfare" group -- means the organization's primary purpose cannot be political activity.
Crossroads is just one of myriad outside groups that are taking to the airwaves to advocate for their fiscal cliff position. A trio of labor unions -- AFSCME, SEIU and the NEA -- launched a six-figure television and radio buy in five states in late November, opposing cuts to education, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. The AARP has spent seven figures on a national ad buy urging Congress not to tackle major entitlements reform in a last-minute deal.
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