Tuesday, September 25, 2012

SuperPAC followup: Secretive 501(c)(4)s and Rove shifts spending to the Senate

A couple of follow-up items on yesterday's post on SuperPACs in this election cycle:

My friend Jason Cornett mentioned that I failed to discuss the more secretive SuperPACs with status as 501(c)(4) status, which means that they're classified by the IRS as tax-free nonprofits dedicated to "social welfare" issues.  They are under much less restrictive reporting rules, but also have some tighter constraints on how much electioneering they can do. Of course, the enforcement of those constraints in the post Citizens United legal environment is a matter of some debate. All of this makes it difficult to know just how much they've raised and what they're spending it on.

He also passed along a link to a good Huffington Post article discussing them in some detail: Secretive 501(c)(4) nonprofits report only a fraction of elections fundraising and spending.

One of the largest of the 501(c)(4) orgs in terms of political advertising is Crossroads GPS, the sister organization of Karl Rove's American Crossroads SuperPAC.  In yesterday's post I mentioned that I thought that one of the most interesting indicators of how Mitt Romney's chances are really viewed inside the Republican Party would be whether Rove continued to invest his SuperPAC money in Romney's campaign, or if he shifted it towards the Congressional races in an attempt to either retake the Senate or in the worst-case scenario for Republicans, try to hold the U.S. House of Representatives.

This afternoon we have this story from CNN: Crossroads ads continue in fight for U.S. Senate which tells us, "The $5.5 million ad buy hits five Senate candidates in states thought to be in the balance for which party controls the upper chamber come November-Florida, Virginia, Nevada, Ohio and Indiana."

Here are the rankings of these five states in the Presidential and Senate "Tipping Point" rankings on Nate Silver's fivethirty.com blog, which give the odds that winning a state could either decide the presidential race or decide control of the Senate:

  • Florida (3rd Presidential, 10th Senate)
  • Virginia (2nd Presidential, 1st Senate)
  • Nevada (6th Presidential, 5th Senate)
  • Ohio (1st Presidential, 6th Senate)
  • Indiana (Not-ranked Presidential, 7th Senate)
The ads themselves are targeted specifically at Democratic Senate candidates.  But it does look a bit to me as if Rove is at least trying to get a two-for-one value here, mostly targeting states that are important in both the Senate and Presidential race.


  1. Thanks again, John for this and the previous post. With you doing some part-time journalism, it is actually a pleasure to "read the paper."

  2. Quick update: According to an article in the Huffington Post today the Crossroads Senate advertising buy also included Wisconsin and totaled $6.4 million.