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Conservative group plans ad assault on Obama and economy

July 06, 2012|By Matea Gold
(Crossroads GPS )

WASHINGTON -- Forget any summer lull before the conventions. Voters in battleground states will be swamped with campaign television ads in coming weeks, as was evident Friday when conservative advocacy group Crossroads GPS announced it would spend $25 million in the next month on spots hitting President Obama on the economy.

The commercials – technically “issue ads,” because they do not explicitly call for Obama’s defeat – will air Monday through early August in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia.

“Barack Obama has got lots of excuses for the bad economy,” says a female narrator in the first ad of the series, which shows people standing in an unemployment line. The ad then strings together clips of Obama saying, “Headwinds coming from Europe. We’ve had a string of bad luck. An earthquake in Japan. An Arab Spring.”

“But Obama never blames Washington’s wild spending and skyrocketing debt. Tell Obama: for real job growth, cut the debt.”

The $25-million buy is the latest massive ad campaign by Crossroads GPS, a tax-exempt 501(c)4 organization co-founded by GOP strategist Karl Rove. The group dropped $25 million on another four-week ad blitz just in May.

The gargantuan spending underscores the huge influence outside groups are having on this year’s campaign -- particularly tax-exempt advocacy groups that do not have to disclose who is financing them. The sharp-edged ads by Crossroads GPS have drawn complaints and the threat of a lawsuit from Obama’s lawyers, who charge that the organization is flouting rules that limit the political activity of 501(c)4 organizations.

But conservative advocacy groups are fighting calls to disclose their donors, arguing that such reporting could lead to intimidation, as Joseph Tanfani and Melanie Mason reported last month. 

The desire by organizations such as Crossroads GPS to keep their contributors a secret is one reason voters will be deluged with ads in July. From now until early August is the last remaining window in which groups can run “issue ads” without triggering disclosure rules mandated by a federal judge this spring. Under the ruling in Van Hollen v. Federal Election Commission, groups that air issue ads a month before the party conventions or general election – the definition of “electioneering communications” -- will have to reveal all their donors since the beginning of 2011, or set up a segregated fund with disclosed donors to pay for the ads.

The decision is on appeal but will not be heard until this fall. Because of that, election law lawyers expect many groups will pour their money into TV spots this month to avoid revealing their financers.

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