Conveniently Timed Front-Page Fretting About GOP Fundraising Groups
Friday's front-page expose by Mike McIntire, "Under Tax-Exempt Cloak, Political Dollars Flow," was only the latest in a series of front-page stories hammering Republican fundraising groups - and seemingly only Republican fundraising groups - as a promising election cycle approaches for the G.O.P.
Now that Republicans are getting a lion's share of financial support from corporate donors and Wall Street (the same way the Democrats did in 2006 and 2008), the Times has suddenly seized on the dangers of funding. Friday's front-page attack on "Americans for Job Security," which goes on for 2,100 words, follows up on two other hostile front-page exposes, one on Sunday investigating Sal Russo, strategist of the Tea Party Express, and another on Tuesday, "Donor Names Remain Secret As Rules Shift," an attack on Crossroads, a Karl Rove-affiliated non-profit.
Alaskans grew suspicious two years ago when a national organization called Americans for Job Security showed up and spent $1.6 million pushing a referendum to restrict development of a gold and copper mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay.
It seemed an oddly parochial fight for a pro-business group based in the Washington suburbs that had spent tens of millions of dollars since the late 1990s roughing up Democrats with negative advertisements around election time.
But after the mine's supporters filed a complaint with the state, it became clear that what was depicted as grass-roots opposition was something else entirely: Americans for Job Security, investigators found, had helped create the illusion of a popular upwelling to shield the identity of a local financier who paid for most of the referendum campaign. More broadly, they said, far from being a national movement advocating a "pro-paycheck message," the group is actually a front for a coterie of political operatives, devised to sidestep campaign disclosure rules.
"Americans for Job Security has no purpose other than to cover various money trails all over the country," the staff of the Alaska Public Offices Commission said in a report last year.
The report went mostly unnoticed outside Anchorage. But its conclusions suddenly loom large in the current debate over nonprofit advocacy groups like Americans for Job Security, which campaign watchdogs say allow moneyed interests to influence elections without revealing themselves. Congress is now wrangling over a bill that would require some disclosure.
So why does the Times "suddenly" care? Paragraph six offered a clue:
With every election cycle comes a shadow army of benignly titled nonprofit groups like Americans for Job Security, devoted to politically charged "issue advocacy," much of it negative. But they are now being heard as never before - in this year of midterm discontent, Tea Party ferment and the first test of the Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited, and often anonymous, corporate political spending. Already they have spent more than $100 million - mostly for Republicans and more than twice as much as at this point four years ago.
An examination of Americans for Job Security - based on a review of its recent activities, as well as on interviews and previously unreleased documents from the Alaska case - provides a rare look inside the opaque world of these ascendant advocacy organizations. Its deep ties to a Republican consulting operation raise questions about whether, under cover of its tax-exempt mission "to promote a strong, job-creating economy," the group is largely a funnel for anonymous donations.
The Times' tedious investigation revealed the supposedly hidden hand of Karl Rove
The group's Republican connections begin with location: While its public address is a drop box at a United Parcel Service store in Alexandria, Va., Mr. DeMaura actually works out of space that is sublet from a Republican consulting shop, Crossroads Media, whose other clients include the national Republican Party, the Republican Governors Association and American Crossroads, a Karl Rove-backed group raising millions to support Republican candidates.
Crossroads Media is run by Michael Dubke and David Carney, who along with several business groups helped start Americans for Job Security in 1997. Mr. Carney had been political director for President George Bush, and Mr. Dubke was the first executive director and then president of Americans for Job Security until April 2008, when Mr. DeMaura, recruited by Mr. Carney, took over.
And the "Republican" groups committed the ghastly crime of issuing an ad that someone thought insulted people from India.
In May, the group ran an ad attacking a labor-backed Democrat in an Arkansas Senate primary, Bill Halter, for having served on the board of a technology company that opened an office in India. The ad - placed by Crossroads and produced by another Republican-connected company in the office suite, WWP Strategies - played ethnic music, featured Indians in colorful garb expressing gratitude toward Mr. Halter for their jobs, and was widely derided as insulting toward people from India.
The Times piled on more allegations, and complaints from unlabeled left-wing watchdog, Public Citizen that their anti-Rove complaints were not taken up by the IRS.
Other aspects of the group's operations have come under scrutiny as well. In 2007, Public Citizen filed complaints with the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission, contending that Americans for Job Security spent the vast majority of its resources electioneering - running ads close to elections - contrary to I.R.S. guidelines for tax-exempt, nonprofit business groups.
Public Citizen said it never heard back from the I.R.S. At the election commission, staff lawyers agreed that there was "reason to believe" that the group had violated campaign finance laws, and recommended a full investigation. But the commission deadlocked along party lines, and the complaint was dropped.