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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

American Crossroads/Crossroads GPS

Political Leanings: Republican

Spending target: Unknown

The Crossroads “twins” are affiliated conservative advocacy groups that rank among the biggest outside players influencing national and state elections. 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, the group’s then-spokesman, Jonathan Collegio, told us at the time. Crossroads Grassroots Political Strategies (Crossroads GPS) was formed as an affiliated organization in June 2010.

American Crossroads is a super PAC, allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts provided all donations and expenditures are reported publicly. Crossroads GPS, a 501(c)(4), does not have to disclose any information about who gives to it. The group was formed, according to Carl Forti, political director for American Crossroads, because “some donors didn’t want to be disclosed” and were “more comfortable” giving to an entity that keeps donors’ names secret. However, it still must disclose any spending advocating for or against a candidate.

According to its most recent Form 990, filed in 2015, Crossroads GPS received almost $72 million in contributions and grants from 80 donors during the 2014 cycle. Twelve contributors gave over $1 million each, including one donation of $20.6 million. ProPublica’s analysis of the group’s 2012 tax returns found 50 anonymous contributions of more than $1 million, including one of $22.5 million. The group’s 2015 financial information is unlikely to be available until the fall, when it is has traditionally filed its Form 990.

During the 2014 election cycle, the Crossroads groups together spent over $47.8 million on independent expenditures, the fourth most among outside spending groups. They spent most of that money targeting then-Sens. Mark Udall of Colorado, Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Each of them went on to lose their race for re-election. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Crossroads had a high success rate in 2014; more than 82 percent of its money was spent on races where candidates supported by Crossroads won or candidates opposed by Crossroads lost.

The chairman of American Crossroads is Jo Ann Davidson, a former Ohio state legislator who served as co-chair of the Republican National Committee from 2005 to 2009. 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, and is the president of Crossroads GPS. The biographies of Davidson, Law and other top staffers can be found on the group’s website.

We don’t know how much the sister groups plan to spend on the presidential and congressional elections this cycle. Law, in a May 2015 interview with the New York Times, said that the goal is “to win the White House and hold the Senate and the House” for Republicans.

As of March 31, American Crossroads had received more than $3.2 million in individual contributions, according to the Federal Election Commission. Of that amount, $1 million was donated in two $500,000 contributions by Warren A. Stephens, chairman, president and CEO of the financial services firm Stephens Inc. And, so far, the PAC has spent just about $124,000 on independent expenditures. That sum includes more than $50,000 to Targeted Victory on Jan. 17 for an online ad campaign in Iowa attacking Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton for having ties to Wall Street.

During the 2012 election cycle, American Crossroads spent close to $105 million on independent expenditures and other communication costs, including over $90 million on ads supporting Mitt Romney and attacking President Obama. For its part, Crossroads GPS spent almost $189 million in 2012, according to its 2013 Form 990.