Major American Crossroads Donors Ignore Interests Of Their Clientele

October 27, 2010 1:21 pm ET — Mike Burns

American Crossroads, a 527 group linked to Karl Rove and Ed Gillepsie, describes itself as "an independent, national grassroots political organization whose mission is to speak out in support of conservative issues and candidates across America." But recent FEC filings reveal it is anything but a locally-inspired outfit; indeed, more than 90 percent of the $4.7 million American Crossroads has raised to date has come from a handful of billionaires. Of that $4.7 million, more than $2.5 million has come from TRT Holdings, Inc. and Public Storage, Inc. 

According to OpenSecrets.org, Public Storage, a real estate investment trust that operates more than 2,100 self-storage locations in the United States and Europe, has donated $1,550,000 to American Crossroads, making it the top contributor to the organization this election cycle. TRT Holdings, the holding company of Omni Hotels and Gold's Gym, has donated $1,000,000 to American Crossroads — the second largest contribution to the group.

The larger point in all this is not that American Crossroads is terribly dishonest in how it promotes itself (this is obvious). It's that the corporations which have donated vast sums of money to American Crossroads are, in essence, supporting Republican policies that are diametrically opposed to the interests of their consumers. Let's unpack this piece by piece.

Gold's Gym prides itself on a membership that is "comprised of people from all ages and walks of life." Indeed, according to a February 19, 2004 CNN.com article, Gold's Gym in San Francisco offered a $1 dollar membership deal for same-sex newlyweds as part of a Valentine's promotion.

Despite the interests of Gold's gay and lesbian clientele — which surely include the repeal of the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy and the legalization of gay marriage on the national level — TRT Holdings donated $1 million dollars to support "conservative issues." And given that Senate Republicans recently blocked the repeal of DADT in spite of widespread public support, it seems that these "conservative issues" don't include equal rights for gay and lesbian individuals.

Yet TRT Holdings' donations to American Crossroads have not gone unnoticed by members of the gay community. A number of Gold's Gym franchises in the San Francisco Bay Area intend to leave the Gold's brand after their contract with Gold's Gym International expires in 2012. Until then, the Bay Area gyms will donate a sum that is equal or greater to their Gold's Gym franchise fees to LGBT charities. Along similar lines, Change.org has started an online petition — which has more than 4,000 signatures to date — urging Gold's executives to stop "taking money from customers and spending it in order to elect anti-gay politicians."

As illustrated on its website, Public Storage has a large presence in highly populated, many of which happen to be cities. According to a filing with the SEC for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2009, approximately one-fifth of Public Storage's U.S. properties are located in California and, as a quick glance at its website reveals, these too are primarily located in urban areas.

But rather than support candidates and causes that would pursue an agenda aimed at helping its customers, Public Storage has instead chosen to cater to a Republican platform that includes fighting to give handouts to millionaires and billionaires, while effectively holding the middle class hostage.

If these recent donations weren't bad enough, both Public Storage and TRT Holdings have long been supporters of the conservative movement. Robert Rowling, the CEO of TRT Holdings, has given over $2 million to conservative candidates and causes since April 9, 1998. TRT Holdings itself donated nearly $700,000 to the Republican Party as well as conservative candidates and PACs between 2007 and 2008. Likewise, B. Wayne Hughes, founder of Public Storage, has given over $1.5 million to conservative candidates and causes since November 12, 1997. And between 2007 and 2008, Public Storage donated nearly $80,000 to the Republican Party, conservative candidates, and conservative PACs.  

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