WASHINGTON -- American Crossroads, the head of the Super PAC wing of the Republican Party, has launched its first salvo in the 2012 congressional elections with a web and radio attack on Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).
In a press release, American Crossroads announced the launch of the website TruthAboutClaire.com along with a Twitter feed, the hiring of a Missouri-based political consultant and a $50,000 radio ad buy against the senator.
"Claire McCaskill is a top target in the 2012 elections for one reason: a liberal voting record that is out of step with Missouri and her own rhetoric," said Jonathan Collegio, communications director for American Crossroads.
American Crossroads was formed in 2010 after the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling and the subsequent SpeechNow vs. FEC appellate court ruling allowed for so-called Super PACs, political action committees that can raise unlimited funds from any source and use that money to support or oppose candidates for election. The group is required to disclose its donors to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
The radio ad begins as a mock news cast with an announcer intoning that McCaskill "has been using a body-double to cast her votes in Washington, D.C." A back-and-forth between the fake anchors for "Show Me TV" explains that McCaskill has been voting for more spending, despite a promise to be fiscally responsible.
Caitlin Legacki, senior spokeswoman for the Missouri Democratic Party, responded to the Crossroads ad campaign in a comment to HuffPost:
"All of the attacks against Claire are going to be about distorting her record. As an independent who has cut spending by going after the big contractors, she's stepped on some pretty big toes, and there are quiet a few giants who want to take her out as a result."
Since its inception, American Crossroads has been the biggest spender among non-party political committees on expenditures targeting congressional races. In the 2010 cycle, American Crossroads spent $21.8 million on advertisements, websites and other expenditures while targeting 34 different races. So far, the committee has spent $690,925 on campaign expenditures in 2011. The entirety of that money was in the special election to fill the empty seat in New York's 26th district.
American Crossroads was formed with a sister group, Crossroads GPS, a 501(c)4 nonprofit that can spend and raise money in the same way as American Crossroads, but does not have to disclose its donors to the FEC.
The groups were initially founded with the help of former George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove. Rove has helped the organizations raise funds, and his connections to the Texas-based Bush donor network is evident in American Crossroads' donation filings. Contributions from big-time Texas Republican donors Bob Perry, Robert Rowling, Harold Simmons and Trevor Rees-Jones made up over 50 percent of the total haul by American Crossroads in 2010. The next disclosure of donors will come on July 15.
Crossroads GPS has already weighed into the 2012 election, however, in a different fashion. Since the group is organized as a social welfare nonprofit, it must spend at least 50 percent of its funds on non-electoral functions. This includes advertising that informs voters about positions taken by lawmakers, so long as they do not call for the election or defeat of a candidate.
Earlier this year, Crossroads GPS made a $450,000 ad buy in 22 swing districts. The ad buy featured ads excoriating 12 vulnerable Democrats and praising 10 vulnerable Republicans.
The two Crossroads groups have pledged to raise $120 million to spend on the 2012 elections.