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Rove-aligned group targeting Missouri for anti-Obama ads

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 27, 2011 - Beginning this week, television viewers in Missouri and nine other states will be seeing ads casting President Barack Obama as a failure on economic issues.

But the real target is Missouri's members of Congress.

The $5 million ad blitz is being conducted by Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, a conservative advocacy group also known as Crossroads GPS. It has ties to Karl Rove, a prominent GOP consultant who long was a key advisor to President George W. Bush.

Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio said in an interview this morning that the ads are aimed at influencing members of Congress to oppose any tax hikes, which are sought by Democrats as part of a broader debt-reduction plan that also includes program cuts. Crossroads backs the general GOP opposition to tax increases or the elimination of existing tax breaks.

Crossroads chose Missouri and the other nine states because they are considered politically swing states, Collegio said.

Crossroads GPS was a prominent political player in 2010, airing millions of dollars worth of ads last summer and fall that attacked Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, then the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate.

Crossroads GPS is a 501c4, which refers to a section of the IRS code that allows such groups to avoid identifying their donors. Crossroads and the Federal Election Commission are currently sparring over how much information the group needed to supply about its 2010 donors.

According to Crossroads, it's planning to spend $20 million over the next two months "to frame the national debate on jobs, the economy and the national debt in anticipation of congressional action on these issues."

Crossroads says its aim is "to move the center of debate toward cutting spending and the national debt without raising taxes, and pursuing pro-growth policies that will promote job creation."

The $5 million buy is the first phase and is to span the next two weeks. According to Politico, Crossroads plans to spend $250,000 of that amount in Missouri -- which should allow the ad to be seen frequently statewide, including the costly urban areas.

(The other targeted states are: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, and Virginia.)

Crossroads GPS said the ad will run on cable and broadcast stations.

The first-phase ad is called "Shovel Ready,"which Crossroads says "details the Obama administration's failure to improve the economy with its $830 billion stimulus legislation and other policies."

"President Obama may have inherited a recession, but his policies have made things worse for everyday Americans by running up the debt and causing economic uncertainty," said Steven Law, president of Crossroads GPS. "Now Obama seems checked out of efforts to reduce America's dangerous debt load, while his party is pushing massive tax increases and even more spending."

Crossroads GPS is a sister group to American Crossroads, another Rove-aligned group running radio ads this month against U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.  Collegio also is the spokesman for American Crossroads, which is a political advocacy group under the IRS' 527 code, which also allows its donors a certain amount of anonymity.

"American Crossroads will have a robust presence," Collegio said.

Collegio said it was an accurate assumption that American Crossroads will continue to be active in Missouri's Senate contest, and that the group will likely run TV ads (presumably against McCaskill as well).

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.