Corporations appear to be embracing, albeit slowly, new campaign rules that allow them to make direct contributions to political groups.
The super PACs that have been playing a significant role this election season are getting more of their funding from corporate coffers — 23 percent, according to an analysis of federal records.
That is up slightly from 19 percent in the 2010 cycle, when super PACs were first formed following the Supreme Court's landmark Citizens United decision that year. In that case, the high court ruled that, under the First Amendment, the government could not restrict corporations from giving.
American Crossroads, one of the largest conservative super PACs, has received an increasing share of its funding from corporations — 39 percent last year, compared with 29 percent in 2010. The group was founded with help from Karl Rove, a one-time political adviser to former President George W. Bush.
Whiteco Industries, a private company that owns billboards, hotels and other real estate ventures, gave $1 million to Crossroads in November. The company's billionaire owner, Dean White, has been a large contributor to Republicans in the past.
Many political interest groups that have formed to take advantage of new rules allowing corporate donations have both a super PAC, which must disclose donors, and an affiliated nonprofit group, which can keep them secret.
Crossroads, for example, has an affiliated nonprofit called American Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies that does not disclose donors. It is unknown how much, if any, corporate money the nonprofit has accepted. A spokesman for both Crossroads groups declined to comment.
Corporations are not allowed to give directly to campaigns. But under the new guidelines following Citizen's United, they can now direct general treasury money directly to political groups that operate independently of the candidates. Before the ruling, companies were required to create a political action committee to send donations to candidates.
So far, few publicly held companies have donated, although AT&T, through its own PAC, gave a $5,000 contribution to Crossroads in December.