American Crossroads, one of the most high-profile conservative groups in the country, donated $53,000 last year to a political group that backs Republicans who support same-sex marriage, records show.
The donation was made to American Unity PAC, a super PAC whose slogan is “promoting and protecting inclusive Republicans.” Super PACs are political action committees that are allowed to accept unlimited contributions.
American Crossroads, one of the first super PACs, was co-founded by GOP strategists Ed Gillespie and Karl Rove, a former adviser to President George W. Bush. Gillespie himself is now running for the U.S. Senate in Virginia.
Federal Election Commission records show that American Crossroads and its nonprofit sister group, Crossroads GPS, spent $175 million during the 2012 election cycle, mostly on advertising aimed at defeating President Barack Obama.
American Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio said the contribution was designed to aid Republican Gabriel Gomez, a pro-gay marriage U.S. Senate candidate, who was defeated by Democratic Rep. Ed Markey in a June special election.
“Crossroads helped fund some mail, phone and online GOTV efforts by American Unity PAC in the last 10 days of the special election for the U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts,” Collegio wrote in an email.
American Crossroads has backed many more candidates who oppose marriage for gay couples.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, for example, has said that his view is that “marriage itself is a relationship between a man and a woman” and that “a federal amendment to define marriage is necessary.”
The super PAC spent more than $90 million on ads in 2012 trying to boost Romney or urging voters to reject Obama.
American Crossroads also spent $1.3 million in 2012 supporting Tommy Thompson, the Republican nominee for a U.S. Senate seat in Wisconsin, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Thompson, who has opposed gay marriage measures, was defeated by Democrat Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay person elected to the U.S. Senate.
American Crossroads also spent about $428,000 in 2012 to support former Rep. Heather Wilson, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in New Mexico, who opposed gay marriage. During a 2012 debate on C-SPAN, she said: “I believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife. And I will stand up and defend that in the United States Senate.”
For his part, Gillespie has said that he believes “marriage is between one man and one woman.”
The contribution was a welcome sign to some Republicans who support marriage rights for gays and lesbians.
“I’m encouraged by the news,” said Fred Karger, a 2012 GOP presidential candidate and gay rights activist. “Hopefully this Republican Party, which I’ve been a member of since my youth, will come around and do what it did in the middle of the last century when it led the fight in many instances, for civil rights for African-Americans.”
Most of the $263,000 raised by the American Unity PAC in 2013 came from Paul Singer, a billionaire hedge fund manager who co-founded the group in 2012. American Crossroads’ contribution makes up one-fifth of its receipts, according to a newly filed report with the FEC.