A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

American Crossroads/Crossroads GPS

Political leanings: GOP/Conservative

Spending target: $240 million

The “Crossroads” twins were among the biggest outside spending groups in the 2010 midterm elections. Carl Forti, political director for American Crossroads, said of the two groups: “We raised and spent over $70 million.” They reported to the Federal Election Commission that a combined $39 million of that was spent on advertising and election communications. In addition, they spent undisclosed amounts on voter turnout efforts and other activities. The groups pledge to spend $240 million in 2012.

In 2011, the two groups raised a combined $51 million.

As an opening shot, American Crossroads reported spending more than $690,000 attacking Democratic candidate Kathy Hochul in a hotly contested special election in May 2011 to fill a vacant seat in upstate New York’s 26th congressional district. The campaign was marked by deceptive claims on both sides, as we reported in our May 19 article “Test Market for Spin.” Despite the heavy spending, Republican candidate Jane Corwin lost.

Ed Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Karl Rove, who served as senior adviser to President George W. Bush, were instrumental in helping to launch American Crossroads in 2010. They “encouraged the formation” of American Crossroads and served as “informal advisers” and fundraisers, according to the group’s spokesman, Jonathan Collegio. The group then formed Crossroads Grassroots Political Strategies (Crossroads GPS) as a sister organization in June 2010.

American Crossroads is a so-called “super PAC,” allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts provided all donations and expenditures are reported publicly. Crossroads GPS was formed, according to Forti, because “some donors didn’t want to be disclosed” and were “more comfortable” giving to an entity that keeps donors’ names secret. Crossroads GPS steadfastly refuses to disclose any information about who gives to it. And if Forti’s $70 million figure is accurate, then the sources of nearly two-thirds of the twins’ combined income escapes disclosure, since the amount disclosed by American Crossroads during the 2010 election cycle was $26 million (of which $7 million came from Texas homebuilder and legendary GOP donor Bob Perry.)

The chairman of American Crossroads is Mike Duncan, a former RNC chairman. Its president and chief executive officer is Steven Law, a former deputy secretary of labor in the administration of George W. Bush. Law also served as general counsel to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The biographies of Duncan, Law and other top staffers can be found here.

As of June 30, 2012, 32 percent of the $40 million raised by American Crossroads this election season came from a whopping $13 million contributed by Texas billionaire Harold Simmons and the Contran Corporation, a massive holding company he controls.

Ranked No. 33 by Forbes on its list of wealthiest Americans, Simmons is worth an estimated $9.3 billion. Simmons is a corporate investor who specializes in leveraged buyouts. He controls a variety of companies in the chemicals, metals and waste industries. In addition to contributions to American Crossroads, Simmons/Contran has donated: $1.1 million to Winning Our Future, a pro-Gingrich super PAC, and $800,000 to Restore Our Future, a super PAC supporting Mitt Romney.