July 31, 2011; Source: Wall Street Journal (Washington Wire) | The national press sometimes focuses so much on the Crossroads GPS organizational nest crafted by George W. Bush’s Rasputin, Karl Rove, that it would seem as if only Republicans are benefiting from the secret money flows going into political nonprofits. Trust us, it’s not just the elephants – it’s the donkeys as well.
Doing battle with Rove’s apparatus is the Priorities USA group created by former Obama aides Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney, and longtime Democratic political strategist Paul Begala. Like Rove-affiliated Crossroads GPS, Priorities USA is actually two groups: Priorities USA Action, which is a PAC that has to disclose its donors; and Priorities USA, a 501(c)(4) offering its donors secrecy.
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The big recent score for Priorities USA Action is a cool $2 million from DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, $500,000 from a political arm of the Service Employees International Union, and $500,000 from Fred Eychaner, described by the Wall Street Journal as Chicago-based philanthropist and major Democratic donor. Katzenberg’s individual donation was huge, but the Priorities USA Super PAC substantially lagged behind the Romney-friendly Restore Our Future Super PAC, which took in $12.2 million in the first six months of the year from the likes of beer producer August Busch III and members of the Marriott family.
But these aren’t real numbers. The secret donations are going to “affiliated organizations,” such as Priorities USA and other 501(c)(4)s. We won’t find out how much those organizations have raised and spent for some time to come, and we might never learn exactly who made which contributions. In the case of elections involving tax-exempt instrumentalities, money talks and the rest of us walk to our polling booths.—Rick Cohen