On a Wednesday afternoon just a week ago, Republican super consultant Karl Rove joined other party heavyweights on a conference call for prospective donors to American Crossroads, an independent conservative group he helped launch this year — a group that has announced plans to spend $52 million to boost the fortunes of GOP Senate and House candidates.
Rove’s prominent role in that call is but one indication that despite having no official position, Rove remains a potent, behind-the-scenes operative doing his utmost to influence the outcome of multiple House and Senate contests.
Rove has additionally been instrumental in organizing strategy meetings that draw top politicos from American Crossroads and ten or so other GOP allied groups collectively slated to spend almost $300 million on ads and get out the vote efforts. And Rove’s money hunt for American Crossroads has included successful personal solicitations of GOP sugar daddies in Texas and New York, among other locales.
Rove teamed up with former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie, who also was on that Wednesday conference call, to get American Crossroads — a 527 which must publicly disclose its donors — off the ground in March by raising several million dollars for its coffers.
Early this year, the pair hit up Texas billionaires like Harold Simmons with great success: to date, two Simmons-linked companies have been the group’s biggest donors, with a total of at least $2 million. Three other Texas tycoons, two of whom are oil company executives, have kicked in about $1 million each for the organization.
After American Crossroads received its early funding, it also established an allied group: Crossroads GPS, a 501(c)(4) that’s raised millions of dollars as well but doesn’t have to disclose its donors. As of August 21, Steven Law, the group’s president, said the two entities together had brought in $17.6 million.
Law told the Center that Rove “has been an informal advisor and has encouraged people to support us.” An assistant to Rove said he was not available for comment.
This summer, Rove and Gillespie made at least one trip to Manhattan to meet with several potential Wall Street donors, and struck gold, say Republican insiders. “He’s been quite successful,” says a GOP fundraiser familiar with Rove’s work.
Paul Singer, founder and chief executive officer of the $17 billion dollar hedge fund Elliott Management - who has helped raise big money for GOP committees and candidates this year - has also assisted one of the two Crossroads units with a sizable check, say fundraising sources. A call to Singer’s office seeking comment was not returned.
The groups’ successful fundraising has enabled the two Crossroads units to pour millions of dollars into television ads in several battleground states such as Colorado, Missouri, Nevada and Ohio to help GOP Senate candidates.
Rove’s drive to help funnel funds into the coffers of outside GOP groups goes further than American Crossroads, to include the American Action Network, another group hoping to raise about $25 million to assist Republican Senate and House candidates. Former Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., the CEO of American Action Network, credits Rove, along with Gillespie “in helping [the] group with some initial fundraising.” The network shares a suite of offices with American Crossroads, on the 12th floor of a modern office building on New York Ave., a few blocks from the White House, in Washington.
In the spring, Rove also hosted at least one strategy session at his former office/ home in Northwest Washington for American Crossroads and ten or so other outside groups – one of several get-togethers that are aimed at coordinating activities to maximize the clout of these groups and reduce redundancies.
Coleman, who has attended some of those gatherings, notes that it’s perfectly legal for such groups to work together, so long as there’s no coordination with campaign committees or candidates. Groups on the left, he says, “have been very successful” at coordinating with each other in past elections and GOP groups are just catching up.
The first of those sessions was an April 21 luncheon that Rove hosted that attracted political honchos from such powerful groups as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Industry Political Action Committee, and the American Action Network.