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“Crossroads” Puts American Dream in Crosshairs

By Clyde Weiss

Karl's RoversThe wealthiest extremists from Wall Street and corporate America are financing American Crossroads and its secretive sister organization, Crossroads GPS. With Karl Rove’s help, these groups have become the most formidable independent political fundraisers on the far right.

Call them the Billionaires’ Clubs for Growth. Their growth, not yours. Together, American Crossroads and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (GPS) comprise the most dangerous money machine in American politics today.

The threat they pose can be seen clearly in the outright lies and distortions of national television ads their money buys. Under a mantra of reducing “runaway government spending and debt,” they propagandize in an unsubtle attempt to undermine support for the progressive policies and programs that built and maintained the middle class: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, health care for all, and other social safety net programs. Moreover, the two organizations seek to cut or eliminate many public services that AFSCME members provide in their communities every day.

Especially worrisome is American Crossroads’ ability to receive and spend unlimited donations from wealthy persons and corporations to influence local and national elections. American Crossroads’ twin sister, Crossroads GPS, was created separately as a nonprofit so it could raise money without having to disclose the donors’ names. They operate out of the same office in Washington, DC.

Karl Rove, whose job as chief political strategist to Pres. George W. Bush earned him the nickname “Bush’s brain,” has emerged as one of the two main operatives behind the Crossroads entities. The other is Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) who served as Counselor to the President during Bush’s administration. The two men are now referred to as Crossroads’ “advisors.”

Deep Pockets
“There’s not too much money in politics,” Mike Duncan, chairman of American Crossroads and former chairman of the RNC has been quoted saying. That assessment appears to be the group’s guiding philosophy, and the deep pockets of the right have fully embraced it.

Between the founding of Crossroads in early 2010 and the general elections that November, it pulled in an astounding $71 million. The bulk of it, $43 million, came from donors who remain anonymous, thanks to Crossroads GPS’s nonprofit status. Combined, that made them the largest independent source of right-wing spending during that election cycle.

Established as “an independent, national grassroots political organization,” Crossroads is anything but grassroots. Through June of this year, the two Crossroads groups have raised $3.8 million, of which more than 90 percent came from just three billionaires! (See below.)

Swinging From The Right
With all of that money at its disposal, the Crossroads duo is poised to carry out its primary goal: installing anti-union politicians into office at the national and state levels, and also defeating Pres. Barack Obama’s bid for re-election next year.

Crossroads also wants to take control of the U.S. Senate from the Democrats and advance a corporate agenda that includes repealing the new health care law, privatizing public services and reducing federal spending on programs vital to working families.

The Crossroads groups spent a total $38 million on negative TV ads against lawmakers who support working Americans. That makes them, together, the No. 1 spender on the right, exceeding the former top spender — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — by nearly $6 million.

Still, that accomplishment amounted only to Crossroads’ “opening act,” boasted Steven Law, who left his previous job as general counsel of the Chamber of Commerce to become president of both groups. Crossroads’ fundraising goal for the 2012 elections is much more ambitious: $240 million. They’re well on their way to achieving it.

Unions themselves are squarely in the bullseye. Earlier this year, during the battle in Wisconsin over collective bargaining rights, Crossroads spent $750,000 for a nationwide cable-TV ad campaign that attacked public service workers and their unions. During the summer, Crossroads backed U.S. Rep. John Boehner’s (R) job-killing debt-limit proposal, which included cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Spreading Lies
Crossroads’ ads not only distort the truth, they also lie outright. Take, for example, July’s $7 million ad campaign attacking President Obama, five Democratic senators and 10 representatives for their alleged responsibility for the nation’s debt. The ad criticized those lawmakers for backing “billions in new taxes.” Evaluating its truthfulness, FactCheck.org noted that the ad did not acknowledge a key point: Those same members of Congress supported tax cuts — worth nearly $858 billion — that were contained in a 2010 agreement extending President Bush’s tax cuts.

In addition, Crossroads’ ads refer to a “failed stimulus” that promised to “create more jobs.” But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office noted that the unemployment rate would be even higher today without the stimulus money. The pitches also suggested that “Medicare will be cut.” FactCheck.org calls that misleading, noting that “the law actually expands traditional Medicare benefits, such as adding more prescription drug coverage.”

The ad attacking collective bargaining rights for public service workers in Wisconsin claims that lawmakers want to “protect a system that pays unionized government workers 42 percent more than non-union workers…” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel refuted that false assertion, noting that the 42 percent figure has not been adjusted for significant differences between states. Although a Crossroads spokesman cited a report by the libertarian Cato Institute to support its claim, the newspaper says the study cited contained no such figure.

Ironically, American Crossroads declares in its online “values” statement that, “First of all, we believe that setting a new direction for America starts with you — not with clever political ads, consultants and slick fundraising pitches.” But the values statement is as misleading as the ads.

A Deep Pocketed Team

Bradley Hughes
Founder of Public Storage, Hughes is Crossroads’ first reported donor, providing at least $3.5 million in 2010. Reportedly worth $1.8 billion, Hughes is listed by OpenSecrets.org as the second largest disclosed contributor to elections in 2010.

Trevor Rees-Jones
President and CEO of Dallas-based Chief Oil and Gas, Rees-Jones in 2010 gave Crossroads at least $2 million from his $3.3 billion fortune.

Jerrold “Jerry” Perenchio
Former chairman of the Spanish-language television network Univision, Perenchio gave the largest identified donation ($2 million) during the first six months of this year. Perenchio was the ninth-largest disclosed contributor to elections in 2010.

Bob Perry
The Texas home builder (Perry Homes) donated $7 million to Crossroads in 2010 and $500,000 so far this year. He is infamous as the top funder of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which spread lies about John Kerry’s military service in Vietnam during the 2004 Presidential election. Perry was the largest disclosed contributor to candidates in 2010.

Robert Rowling
The Dallas investor gave a total $5 million in 2010 and $1 million year this through his company, TRT Holdings, which owns the Gold’s Gym fitness chain, the luxury Omni hotel chain, and the oil and gas firm Tana Exploration.

Harold Simmons
Owner of Dallas-based Waste Control Specialists, Simmons contributed $2 million to Crossroads last year. He was a major fundraiser for Republican Sen. John McCain’s 2008 Presidential campaign and a financial backer of such right-wing enterprises as the Swift Boat cabal.

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