Wednesday, May 23, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Crossroads GPS, a conservative group co-founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove, has launched an expensive ad campaign in Nevada targeting President Barack Obama.
But there’s a noticeable gap in the ad buy.
Crossroads GPS is dark in Washoe County, Nevada’s pivotal swing county that could be the national turning point for the presidential election.
Why not go after Obama in the county that could determine his future in the White House?
Crossroads GPS refuses to shed light on the matter. Spokesman Nate Hodson said the group declines to talk about its specific strategy in placing ad buys.
But the answer could very well rest on the organization’s strong desire to keep its donors in the shadows.
A federal appeals court this month refused to stay a lower court’s ruling compelling political nonprofit groups such as Crossroads GPS to identify their donors if they engage in so-called “electioneering communications” — ads that identify a specific candidate within 30 days of a primary election. But Nevada doesn’t have a presidential primary election, you might wisely note.
True, but California does.
Obama’s name is on the June 5 primary ballot in California, and the Washoe County television market reaches just enough California voters to qualify the Crossroads ads as electioneering communication within that 30-day window.
If Crossroads GPS were to breach the window, it could be forced to disclose who funds the group — a list it has kept closely guarded since its creation in 2010.
Crossroads GPS is organized as a political nonprofit organization that can engage in political issue advocacy. These types of groups have expanded into candidate advertising, carefully wording their ads so as not to run afoul of Federal Election Commission rules.
Last year, Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen sued the FEC, arguing its rules did not fit with disclosure requirements passed by Congress. A district court judge agreed, and the appeal is pending.
But in wake of the appeals panel’s decision not to stay the lower court ruling, groups such as Crossroads GPS appear to be playing it safe.
Crossroads GPS has widely crowed about its ad buys in nine presidential swing states, including Nevada. In the past week it has placed buys for two ads in Las Vegas totaling more than $1 million.
Both ads attack Obama’s economic policies, with one detailing a list of “broken promises.” Although Crossroads GPS declined to say why it’s dark in Washoe County, it won’t remain so for long.
The group has reserved airtime in the critical swing county beginning June 6 — one day after the California primary.