Political Party Time

American Crossroads official co-hosts campaign event for House Republican

An official of American Crossroads, the top-spending Super PAC in the 2010 election cycle, co-hosted a fundraiser for a lawmaker’s campaign last week, further blurring the line between candidate committees, which can raise limited contributions from individuals and political action committees, and Super PACs, which can raise unlimited funds from corporations, labor unions and individuals.

The Federal Election Commission ruled in June that candidates for federal office can raise funds for Super PACs—or independent expenditure-only committees—as long as they do not solicit contributions higher than those their own campaigns can accept. Super PAC officials are free to ask those donors for far more money.

Jim Dyke, secretary of American Crossroads, co-hosted a fundraiser for freshman congressman Tim Griffin, R-Ark. The other hosts were former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillispie and his wife. Gillespie and Karl Rove, the longtime senior adviser in the George W. Bush administration, encouraged the formation of American Crossroads and served as fundraisers for the group.

The invitation made no reference to American Crossroads. While Super PACs and candidates can coordinate their fundraising, they are still barred from coordinating spending, whether it be on television or radio ads, get out the vote efforts, or other campaign activities.

The fundraising reception was at a Capitol Hill Mexican restaurant on Sept. 14; the invite asked donors for up to $2,000 from PACs and $1,000 from individuals. Gillespie has hosted congressional fundraisers in the past, but this appears to be the first such event hosted by Dyke in Party Time’s records, which date back to mid-2008 but do not include all of D.C.’s fundraisers.

“Hosting the fundraiser could raise questions about possible coordination,” campaign finance lawyer Brett Kappel, of Arent Fox, wrote in an email, “but the FEC has never pursued a case based solely on hosting a fundraiser.”

Gillespie, Dyke and Griffin all said there was no coordination. In an email, Gillespie wrote,

"I’m proud to contribute to Tim Griffin’s re-election campaign, and have urged others to do so as well, but I’m not privy to his campaign’s strategy or decisions.  Likewise, I’m proud to support the efforts of American Crossroads and believe it’s an important counterweight to liberal groups, but I’m not an officer there, not a paid employee nor consultant and have no control over its expenditures."

Dyke, who is from Arkansas, wrote, “As a board member [of American Crossroads] I am committed to upholding the legal separation between campaign and third party coordination and made certain that a contribution to Tim’s campaign and encouraging others to do so was in no way a violation of that separation.”

Asked if the event raised questions about coordination, Griffin wrote in a statement, “No. Jim Dyke has been a close friend for almost a decade, was a member of my wedding party and grew up in my district.”

There are professional ties among the three as well. When Gillespie led the Republican National Committee in 2004, Dyke was the communications director, and Griffin worked on opposition research. After the election, Griffin was tapped as a White House assistant to Rove.

He was later picked by the Bush Administration to replace Bud Cummins, one of the U.S. attorneys that was controversially dismissed in 2006. Griffin was appointed as the interim U.S. Attorney for Arkansas’ Eastern district in late 2006 but withdrew his candidacy months later amid the scandal.

A Department of Justice investigation later concluded that Cummins was fired because the White House wanted to give Griffin the position. The report quotes an email from DOJ official Kyle Sampson saying that getting Griffin appointed was important to Rove and Harriet Myers, the former White House counsel.

Neither American Crossroads nor Crossroads GPS spent money on Griffin’s race in 2010, according to FEC records. Dyke and Gillespie both head their own consulting practices and their respective companies share a K Street address. Dyke’s firm, JDA Frontline, is a strategic communications consulting firm that also has an office in South Carolina. Gillespie runs Ed Gillespie Strategies out of Virginia.

American Crossroads and its sister nonprofit Crossroads GPS plan to raise $240 million for the 2012 election.