As the Karl Roved-backed constellation of Crossroads organizations battles for its place in the increasingly crowded world of big GOP money, the influential network has spun off a new nonprofit group to better cater to donors focused on defending the new Senate Republican majority.
In 2012, the Crossroads network had only two groups: American Crossroads, which served as the super PAC, and Crossroads GPS, which served as its secret-money nonprofit arm. Together, together they served as a clearinghouse for what was touted as $300 million in spending to boost GOP House, Senate, and presidential campaigns.
Now, ahead of 2016, the Rove-supported network will be composed of at least four groups. The original Crossroads groups will continue to exist, but they will be mostly focused on the presidential campaign—in particular, on bludgeoning likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
And two newer arms will be devoted to the Senate, with a super PAC announced earlier this year, the Senate Leadership Fund, aiming to defend Mitch McConnell’s new status as Senate majority leader, and the newest addition, One Nation, a 501(c)4 nonprofit that is focused on the Senate and already airing ads in battleground states.
“The impetus was the change in leadership in the Senate and highlighting specifically how that leadership is building consensus to get things done,” said Ian Prior, a spokesman for One Nation (and all four Crossroads-tied groups).
Indeed, all four organizations are advised and run by the same team of Republican operatives, led by former McConnell chief of staff Steven Law, who is the president of the new One Nation.
The new nonprofit, which does not disclose its donors, has already launched a $2 million ad campaign in the last two weeks touting the work of incumbent Republican senators up for reelection in 2016 in competitive states: Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
The spin-off of a new, Senate-focused Crossroads nonprofit is a testament to the fierce fight for donor dollars going on among outside GOP groups. With the political network of Charles and David Koch vowing to spend $900 million ahead of 2016, and every major Republican candidate for president backed by a supportive super PAC, there are more groups cashing—and competing for—outsized checks. Jeb Bush’s super PAC alone is expected to gather $100 million in the first half of 2015.
“We’re a first baseman who effectively plays our position,” Law told The New York Times in a story in Friday’s paper. “We’re a critical player, but part of the team.”
Though Rove and Co. pioneered the use of nonprofits and super PACs in the wake of the Citizens United decision that paved the way for unlimited outside spending, the new Crossroads structure for the Senate is actually modeled after what Sen. Harry Reid and the Democrats did in 2014.
Groups backing Reid’s Democratic majority had a separate super PAC (the Senate Majority PAC) and nonprofit (Patriot Majority USA) that worked in tandem to defend vulnerable Democrats.
Now, Republicans and McConnell will, too.
When Crossroads created its Senate-focused super PAC, in January, the Times reported that McConnell, at a private lunch of GOP senators, “described it as a response to concerns donors expressed after the 2014 election.” The creation of the new nonprofit is presumably an outgrowth of that, including appealing to some donors who wish to back the GOP majority but in the cloak of anonymity.
The group’s ads—supporting GOP senators in blue and purple states—tout recent bipartisan action on Capitol Hill, including on the so-called “doc fix” that tackled Medicare-reimbursement rates and the current pending trade-promotion authority.
“Words like polarized, partisan, and petty are in the past,” said one radio ad in New Hampshire touting Ayotte’s work in Washington.
Prior declined to say the size of the new nonprofit’s budget in the coming 18 months.
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