U.S. President George W. Bush's political strategist Karl Rove (L) jokes around with White House staffer Ed Gillespie as they walk to a farewell party for former Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Rob Portman, across from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, August 1, 2007. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES) (Reuters)

Same old Republicans forming exciting new groups

Lifelong Republican Party hacks are totally planning to revolutionize politics (and pull down a salary)


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Alex Pareene
May 6, 2010 9:15PM (UTC)

Exciting news: There's a bunch of brand-new Republican organizations on the bleeding edge of fundraising and messaging and campaigning. Politico reports on the "vast network" of groups dedicated to taking back Congress and the White House ASAP. It's a revolution, just like MoveOn and the Center for American Progress were for the progressive movement.

Except it's really more of a full-employment program for out-of-power Bush operatives and former Republican congressmen. And an end run around campaign-finance disclosure laws.

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As Mike Madden explained while talking about the Republican State Leadership Committee, one of these new groups, last month:

The reason redistricting is proving to be such an irresistible cash cow is that the committees talking about it now -- on both sides of the aisle -- are organized as so-called 527s, regulated by the IRS instead of federal election authorities. They can raise as much money as they want, and depending on state laws, turn it over in big chunks to gubernatorial or state legislative campaigns.

The groups -- all unofficially led by Karl Rove and lobbyist/campaign strategist Ed Gillespie -- are putting food on the families of a rogues' gallery of ex-congressmen, ex-senators and minor and major appointees from both Bush administrations. The new face of the Republican Party, ladies and gentlemen:

American Crossroads

American Crossroads seems to just be a shadow RNC, for people who don't want to donate to the real RNC, because that organization is currently run by an actual clown.

  • President and CEO: Steven Law, formerly of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and deputy secretary of labor in the Bush administration.
  • Political director: Carl Forti, former Mitt Romney presidential campaign worker and National Republican Congressional Committee communications director. (Also formerly of 527 group "Freedom's Watch.")
  • Chairman: Mike Duncan, former RNC chair.
  • Treasurer: Ann Davidson, former RNC co-chair.
  • Secretary: Jim Dyke, former RNC flack.

American Action Network

American Action Network is "modeled on the Center for American Progress," which itself was modeled on the Heritage Foundation. They're doing polling and running TV ads.

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  • CEO: Norm Coleman, former Republican senator. Coleman narrowly lost his reelection bid to Al Franken, declined to run for governor of Minnesota, and has apparently decided to just continue skulking around D.C.
  • Chairman: Fred Malek, a Republican operative since, god, the Nixon administration. (He counted Jews in the Bureau of Labor Statistics.) Malek is also a former RNC deputy chair, first Bush administration appointee, and John McCain's 2008 finance committee co-chair.
  • President: Rob Collins, a former top aide to Rep. Eric Cantor.

AAN Board members include:

  • Former Sen. George Allen, whose presidential aspirations tragically ended when he used the obscure racial slur "Macaca" in reference to an Indian-American man. His college football teammates confirmed that Allen dropped less-obscure racial slurs on the regular. He's also obsessed with the Confederate flag, which is a bit odd for a guy who was raised in Southern California and Chicago. Also, his sister wrote a book about how he beat her up. This guy was a gold mine and it's almost a shame that he's just doing vague work for obscure energy company-affiliated think tanks.
  • Mel Martinez, former Republican senator and chairman of the RNC and HUD secretary under Bush. Currently a lobbyist.
  • Tom Reynolds, former New York congressman and chairman of the NRCC.
  • Jim Nussle, former Iowa congressman, Republican nominee for Iowa governor, and director of the OMB under Bush.
  • Vin Weber, former Minnesota congressman, lobbyist, Project for a New American Century member, Plains states regional chairman for the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign, and Mitt Romney exploratory committee policy chairman. Everyone has long forgotten that he exited the House in disgrace because of the "House Bank Scandal."

American Action Forum

This is the policy arm of the American Action Network. Norm Coleman's also the chairman, along with:

  • President Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former Congressional Budget Office director, chief economist for Bush's Counsel of Economic Advisers, staff economist for George H.W. Bush's Counsel of Economic Advisers, and, most recently, McCain's 2008 policy director. Let's hope the AAF has a good healthcare plan.
  • Jeb Bush, former Florida governor and Bush family member, is on the board.
  • As is Tom Ridge, former congressman, Pennsylvania governor, and Bush's Homeland Security secretary.

Resurgent Republic
This is a polling/messaging firm run by Gillespie and longtime P.R. guru and pollster Whit Ayres.

And Gillespie is in charge of the aforementioned Republican State Leadership Committee, which is raising money to win state legislatures in order to control redistricting nationwide.

Unelectable former elected officials who refuse to leave Washington, together with the never-elected lifelong party hacks who've never left Washington, always plant themselves in "consulting firms" and lobbying shops and think tanks when the other guys are in the White House, collecting checks until the day their party is back in power. The only new wrinkle here is that terribly constructed campaign finance laws are allowing them to raise more or less unlimited funds to get themselves back to the important work of running and ruining the country.

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Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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