Crossroads GPS, the powerful nonprofit corporation founded by Republican strategists Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, bankrolled most of the money that Carolina Rising spent on TV ads that helped Thom Tillis defeat Kay Hagan for U.S. Senate last year.
Open Secrets, which is part of the Center for Responsive Politics, and two other watchdog groups, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the Center for Public Integrity, previously reported that records showed Carolina Rising received nearly all of its funding from a single donor. Newly available tax records show the donor was Crossroads GPS.
Carolina Rising was formed as a tax-exempt social welfare organization by political operative Dallas Woodhouse, who is now the executive director of the N.C. Republican Party. It spent 97 percent of its money — nearly $5 million — on TV ads that benefitted Tillis, CREW had reported.
The latest records show Crossroads GPS provided 98.7 percent of Carolina Rising’s funds. More than half of Crossroads GPS’ money came from three donors that gave at least $10 million each. One of the anonymous donors contributed $20 million.
Crossroads GPS focused on six Senate races last year, and reported spending almost $26 million on political efforts, Open Secrets reports. Non-profit organizations don’t have to disclose their donors, and are increasingly part of a network of “dark money” that is not directly attributable.
These social welfare groups are prohibited from spending more than half of their money on political activity. CREWS has filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service challenging the legality of Carolina Rising because of the amount of money it spent for Tillis.
Woodhouse dismisses the complaint as groundless, and says the TV ads were issue ads and not political ads. The IRS and Federal Election Commission have conflicting views of when an ad is political or not, leaving candidates without clear direction.
Crossroads GPS, which is associated with the super PAC American Crossroads, continues to focus on North Carolina this year, saying it considers the state a top priority. It reported spending $10.6 million here in 2014.