Witchcraft is fun to talk about, but when it comes to the outcome of the midterm elections almost nothing is more important than the potential impact of big-spending Republican independent groups nationwide. In the new issue of TIME I explain this network of independent groups that are blasting Democrats on the airwaves nationwide, with the help of unlimited (and often undisclosed) campaign donations of $1 million or more. Democrats are countering with union support and a durable fundraising advantage on the part of their official party committees. But they may still find themselves be swamped by the grand plans of the Rove-Gillespie-Barbour axis.
A couple of good stories today shed more light on this effort. In one, the New York Times explains at greater length something I only had space to discuss briefly: The way in which some of these GOP groups are exploiting a loophole in the tax code which lets them keep their donors completely anonymous. Crossroads GPS, the offshoot of a group supported and advised by Karl Rove, is one of the prime offenders here.
But some of these groups are structured in such a way that does require public donor disclosure. (The difference has to do with how explicitly political these groups are; for details read the Times piece.) On that score, Salon‘s Justin Elliott reports that the parent group of Crossroads GPS, American Crossroads–which is required to disclose its donors publicly–raised 91 percent of its August money from conservative billionaires. Not exactly evidence of a grassroots movement. Of course, in past election cycles Democratic groups have also raised big money from billionaires like George Soros; liberals simply have their own robust independent-group operation going this year (something my story explains). Also, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS combined may raise and spend more than $50 million in this cycle, meaning that $2.4 million August haul is only a small sample.
That said, as Elliott notes, because Crossroads GPS doesn’t have to disclose any donor information, the final percentage of billionaire support for these Rove-backed groups could be even higher than 91 percent–and we might never know.