When Karl Rove's nonprofit group Crossroads GPS released a recent series of ads quoting the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics and Washington (CREW), CREW members were quick to note the irony of this shout-out. The ads make use of various statements from CREW in an effort to portray several Democratic candidates as unethical, even though Crossroads GPS, itself a frequent object of CREW's disapproval, has previously dismissed CREW as a partisan "front group" for labor interests.
Some of the ads cite CREW's "Most Corrupt" report, a widely read list of ethically challenged politicians whose 2012 entries include Shelley Berkeley, the Democratic candidate in Nevada's contentious Senate race. In one ad, Rove's group uses a screenshot of a CREW graphic that depicts a smiling Shelley Berkley against a mug shot-style background.
Melanie Sloan, the director of CREW, said she wasn't surprised by Crossroads' contradictions. "They're never troubled by consistency," she said.
Just three months ago, after CREW filed a complaint against Crossroads with the Federal Election Commission, Crossroads spokesperson Jonathan Collegio labeled CREW "a labor union front group that serves partisan causes under the guise of charity." In its complaint against Crossroads, CREW had accused the group of failing to report several television political ads to the FEC by passing them off as "issue ads," which do not need to be reported. In a statement, CREW suggested Crossroads did so in order to maintain its status as a tax-exempt "social welfare" organization. Such organizations are barred from making politics their primary activity.
In a statement at the time, Collegio called these accusations "baseless." Yet his group was not sufficiently troubled by questions of CREW's legitimacy to rule out using its judgments to attack Berkley and Bishop.
CREW has repeatedly censured Berkley for promoting a Nevada medical program that has benefited her physician husband, and they have singled out Bishop for allegedly granting help to a constituent in exchange for a campaign contribution.
A spokesperson for Crossroads GPS did not reply to two requests for comment.