Crossroads Financed Group That Appealed to Keep Donors Secret

Photograph by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Rep. Chris Van Hollen the 2012 Fiscal Summit in Washington, DC.

Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies has itself to thank for a big win in court today.

A U.S. appeals court reinstated a Federal Election Commission rule that allows Crossroads and other nonprofit groups running “issue ads” during election season to keep their donors secret. The rule had been tossed out by a lower-court judge after Rep. Chris Van Hollen sued the FEC.

The winning appeal was brought by the Center for Individual Freedom and the Hispanic Leadership Fund, which argued that making donor names public hurts political speech.

It turns out Crossroads has given generously to the Center for Individual Freedom.

About half of the $5.6 million the center raised in 2010 came from Crossroads, according to Internal Revenue Service forms filed by both nonprofits. (Crossroads’ fiscal year spanned June 2010 to June  2011, while the center’s was October 2010 to October 2011.)

All told, Crossroads spent $42.3 million in 2010, about 36 percent of which it identified as direct political activity. Under the commonly used interpretation of IRS rules, it can keep its nonprofit status — and therefore its donors secret — so long as it doesn’t spend a majority of its budget on politics.

Today’s court ruling preserves the ability of Crossroads and other nonprofits to shield donors even when they’re running election-season ads.

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