New ads reflect spending power of Super PACs, 501(c)(4) groups



Mitt Romney greets voters

Phil Sears/AP

President Obama’s allies, zeroing in on Republican Mitt Romney as a 2012 opponent, are spending $100,000 on ads painting a dark picture of “Mitt Romney’s America.”

The ads are produced by Priorities USA Action, the super PAC affiliated with a similarly-named 501(c)(4) group, Priorities USA. This political double play is one of the new tactics of the big money groups that have emerged since the Supreme Court last year opened the way for wealthy individuals, corporations and labor unions to make unlimited contributions.

Priorities USA Action and Priorities USA, co-founded by former White House press aide Bill Burton, have a target of raising $100 million for the 2012 elections.

The Republican counterparts — the super PAC American Crossroads and its affiliated 501(c)(4), Crossroads GPS — aim to raise almost $250 million.

The super PACs can take unlimited contributions but they must be reported to the Federal Election Commission. The 501(c)(4)s, registered with the IRS rather than the FEC, need not disclose any of their donors or the amount of their contributions. These groups, often formed in pairs, are the newest twist in campaign fundraising.

“The fact that so far 501(c) (4)s are only reporting a fraction of what they’re spending — and nothing at all about their donors — underscores the wholesale inadequacy of our disclosure requirements,” Sheila Krumholz, the executive director of the Center for Response Politics, told iWatch News, which reported on the proliferation of these groups earlier this week.

Donors have been confused about the different missions of all the new groups and how they interact. The Democratic groups held briefings this fall to better explain how the various groups work.

Some longtime GOP fundraisers say the fundraising successes of their various new groups hark back to so-called “soft money” that once flooded into the political parties by the millions.

“Much of those funds that used to flow to the national party committees as soft money have found their way to these c4s and super PACs for the electoral process,” said Mel Sembler, the former Republican National Committee finance chairman.

Back to the anti-Romney ad run by Priorities USA Action. It resurrects his “corporations are people” comment to a questioner last summer. And a Romney quote on the mortgage crisis: “Don’t try to stop the foreclosure process, let it hit the bottom,” he said.

Another super PAC, called Make Us Great Again, is spending $380,000 on ads that tout the background and achievements of Texas Gov. Rick Perry. 

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