How the Republicans rigged Congress

 — new documents reveal an untold story – By David Daley, salon.com , February 6, 2018 – Referencing “The GOP Targets State Legislaturesby Karl Rove, published in Wall Street Journal, March 3, 2010

excerpt from How the Republicans rigged Congress: … Thomas Hofeller unveiled the audacious strategy that would soon transform American politics…a presentation called “Redistricting 2010: Preparing for Success.” … explains why the Republican Party now dominates all levels of American politics despite a polarized and closely divided electorate that generally tends to favor Democrats. It was the GOP strategy to reinvent the gerrymander…. district lines rigged to guarantee the GOP a built-in advantage….…. district lines rigged to guarantee the GOP a built-in advantage….Those kinds of results — Democrats winning more votes, Republicans holding more seats — have become almost commonplace this decade. It’s not a coincidence. The visionaries …managed to look far beyond the short-term horizon. They designed an audacious and revolutionary plan to wield the gerrymander as a tool to lock in conservative governance of state legislatures and Congress….It will take years to recover.” Indeed, even while Democrats sense momentum as we draw closer to the 2018 midterms, the path back to power is steep. Republicans control nearly 70 percent of all state legislative chambers…National polls suggest that Democrats … need to maintain an improbable advantage even to have a shot at winning a majority of the seats… Thomas Hofeller unveiled the audacious strategy that would soon transform American politics…a presentation called “Redistricting 2010: Preparing for Success.” … explains why the Republican Party now dominates all levels of American politics despite a polarized and closely divided electorate that generally tends to favor Democrats. It was the GOP strategy to reinvent the gerrymander…. district lines rigged to guarantee the GOP a built-in advantage….Those kinds of results — Democrats winning more votes, Republicans holding more seats — have become almost commonplace this decade. It’s not a coincidence. The visionaries …managed to look far beyond the short-term horizon. They designed an audacious and revolutionary plan to wield the gerrymander as a tool to lock in conservative governance of state legislatures and Congress….Now new court documents, previously unrevealed emails and once-secret internal documents — most revealed here for the first time — uncover how early the Republican planning began, how comprehensive the redistricting strategy was and how determined conservative operatives were to dye America red from the ground up. It’s the story of how strategists wooed deep-pocketed donors to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars (often in untraceable dark money) and convinced them that winning state legislative seats offered the best opportunity for enduring GOP control at a bargain-basement price. It’s the behind-the-scenes narrative of how Republicans set their sights on 107 state legislative seats in 16 states, with the goal of pushing dozens of U.S. House seats into their column for a decade or longer. It captures their glee as 2010 turned into a big red wave year, and GOP strategists defended all their state chambers, expanded their push deep into Democratic country and caught the other side [Democrats] flat-footed in a deeply consequential year. Success like this breeds many narratives. … 2010 was another story: It was a census year, and a redistricting year. Somebody had to be in charge. Hofeller wanted it to be his side. “Not playing,” he told the room, was “not an option.” Whatever the results of redistricting turned out to be, “we live with them for five elections.”Republicans, Hofeller said, must be fully prepared and engaged on multiple fronts … and suggested how meaningful it could be to be the only people in the room…. When Ed Gillespie took charge of the RSLC, however, targets expanded from direct-mail small-fry to boardroom big-shots… looking to reel in $30 million from GOP whales…By early 2010, the presentation had become sophisticated and precise. Its opening pages, revealed here, are titled “Congressional Redistricting: Drawing Maps for the Next Five Elections,” and it begins with a question: “How do we create 20-25 new Republican Congressional districts over the next five cycles and solidify a Republican Congressional majority?” The answer? “…What will it take to dominate redistricting?… “We were prepared for the fights of the past,” …Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee …We could have done a better job of communicating to stakeholders what 2010 meant. When you’re in a legislative world you assume everyone knows.” Republicans made no such assumptions… “What happens in state legislative races in 2010 will directly impact and shape the political landscape in Washington for the next 10 years.”…Obama had no idea just how decisive it would prove: Republicans would hold the House for the rest of his presidency….It will take years to recover.” Indeed, even while Democrats sense momentum as we draw closer to the 2018 midterms, the path back to power is steep. Republicans control nearly 70 percent of all state legislative chambers…National polls suggest that Democrats … need to maintain an improbable advantage even to have a shot at winning a majority of the seats…

Full text of How the Republicans rigged Congress — new documents reveal an untold story By David Daley, salon.com , 02.06.2018

Delegates to the 2009 Republican Legislative Campaign Committee’s national meeting stayed in style at The Hermitage, Nashville’s magnificent Beaux-Arts landmark and one of the most storied luxury hotels in the world.

If attendees arrived depressed, with Democrats newly moved into the White House and controlling both branches of Congress, they partied like reigning rock stars. State legislators and lobbyists dined on $84 Chateaubriand with burgundy and mushroom sauce at Jimmy Kelly’s steak house, the historic oak-walls-and-oil-painting clubhouse for Nashville’s power set. They tasted the New South at Flyte World Dining and Wine, where the fabled bar snacks included Pad Thai popcorn with sambal caramel and the Carolina Gold Rice Risotto trimmed with a sweet corn and truffle custard.

Corporate sponsors at the $40,000 level were treated to a special Capitol Grille lunch at the Hermitage, where the Porter Road dry-age specials once roamed free among the spring-fed creeks of the hotel’s 250-acre Double H Farm. Everyone could tee off from the Hermitage’s President’s Reserve Golf Course, or gaze upon Elvis Presley’s solid-gold Cadillac limousine at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

When the Republicans were not enjoying the manicured links or the hand-crafted cocktails, however, there was serious business on the agenda.

A few minutes before 8 a.m. on Monday, June 8 — awfully early for any delegate who’d indulged in one too many Jack’s Mules or Fat’s Smashes at the Hermitage’s Oak Bar the night before — Thomas Hofeller unveiled the audacious strategy that would soon transform American politics.

Hofeller, the master GOP mapmaker and white-haired veteran of the most important decennial wars in politics, delivered a presentation called “Redistricting 2010: Preparing for Success.” What he laid out that Monday morning, apparently for the first time before Republican state legislators, explains why the Republican Party now dominates all levels of American politics despite a polarized and closely divided electorate that generally tends to favor Democrats. It was the GOP strategy to reinvent the gerrymander.

If there is to be a blue wave in 2018, it will need to overcome a red seawall that was exactingly designed beginning a decade ago and has proven impermeable in state after state ever since. Even in Virginia last November, Democrats won nearly a quarter of a million more votes than Republicans — and it still wasn’t enough to overcome district lines rigged to guarantee the GOP a built-in advantage. In Alabama, where Doug Jones recently became the first Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate in decades, disgraced GOP candidate Roy Moore still carried six of the state’s seven gerrymandered congressional districts.

Those kinds of results — Democrats winning more votes, Republicans holding more seats — have become almost commonplace this decade. It’s not a coincidence.

The visionaries at the Republican State Leadership Committee, who designed the aptly-named strategy dubbed REDMAP, short for Redistricting Majority Project, managed to look far beyond the short-term horizon. They designed an audacious and revolutionary plan to wield the gerrymander as a tool to lock in conservative governance of state legislatures and Congress.

It proved more effective than any Republican dared dream. Republicans held the U.S. House in 2012, despite earning 1.4 million fewer votes than Democratic congressional candidates, and won large GOP majorities in the Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and North Carolina state legislatures even when more voters backed Democrats.

Now new court documents, previously unrevealed emails and once-secret internal documents — most revealed here for the first time — uncover how early the Republican planning began, how comprehensive the redistricting strategy was and how determined conservative operatives were to dye America red from the ground up. It’s the story of how strategists wooed deep-pocketed donors to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars (often in untraceable dark money) and convinced them that winning state legislative seats offered the best opportunity for enduring GOP control at a bargain-basement price.

It’s the behind-the-scenes narrative of how Republicans set their sights on 107 state legislative seats in 16 states, with the goal of pushing dozens of U.S. House seats into their column for a decade or longer. It captures their glee as 2010 turned into a big red wave year, and GOP strategists defended all their state chambers, expanded their push deep into Democratic country and caught the other side flat-footed in a deeply consequential year.

Success like this breeds many narratives. Politico finds REDMAP’s roots in a mid-2009 meeting in former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie’s office in Alexandria, Virginia. They credit Gillespie, then chair of the RSLC and more recently the GOP candidate defeated by newly-elected Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, with the idea. In my book “Ratf**ked,” which traces REDMAP and its state-by-state consequences, RSLC executive director Chris Jankowski remembered reading a summer 2009 New York Times story suggesting that 2010 governors’ races provided Republicans a road back, saying that he then understood the opportunity an unpopular president and a redistricting-year midterm wave might present.

It turns out that both of these origin stories obscure the actual start of these efforts by almost a year and a half.

Thomas Hofeller’s presentation at the Hermitage on June 8, 2009, came six weeks before the New York Times story that inspired Jankowski. Gray-haired and wearing rimless glasses, Hofeller debuted a history-shaping PowerPoint that walked Republicans through their path back to power.

Sure, the 2008 election, in which Barack Obama had swamped John McCain and Democrats expanded their majorities in both the House and Senate, hadn’t gone the way anyone in the room had hoped. But 2010 was another story: It was a census year, and a redistricting year. Somebody had to be in charge. Hofeller wanted it to be his side. “Not playing,” he told the room, was “not an option.” Whatever the results of redistricting turned out to be, “we live with them for five elections.”

Republicans, Hofeller said, must be fully prepared and engaged on multiple fronts — and he told state legislators that they would play the starring roles. He explained how in more than 40 states, state legislatures drew both their own state House and Senate districts, along with the vast majority of the 435 U.S. House seats. He walked through the importance of being in the room when the new lines were drawn. He emphasized that the state legislative elections in 2009 and 2010 represented the party’s last chance to influence its position at what he called the “redistricting table” when line-drawing began after the census — and suggested how meaningful it could be to be the only people in the room.

Hofeller reminded the legislators that the Democrats had dominated this process in 1990, with complete control over 172 seats while Republicans owned merely five. By 2000, GOP prospects had improved, narrowing the GOP edge to 135-96. Republicans, Hofeller said, could do even better in 2010. Along with Lynn Westmoreland, a Georgia congressman, he laid out the details: The party would target control of state legislative chambers that either party held by five or fewer seats. They’d double down on states where the governor had veto power over the maps. And there would be plenty of money to fund key campaigns, upgrade technology, recruit and train candidates — and then to guarantee that every state legislature had a redistricting lawyer and litigator.

That money, these newly revealed internal RSLC documents reveal, began flowing from early 2008 fundraising appeals that were already focused directly on post-2010 redistricting.

“The more Republicans we can elect to state house chambers this year, the stronger our Party will be as we confront the redistricting decisions that will follow the 2010 Census,” wrote Scott Ward, then the RSLC’s president. Ward hoped to raise $1.5 million before April 2008. This would be a “’must win’” battle,” he continued, “and we must start now to gain the upper hand!”

When Ed Gillespie took charge of the RSLC, however, targets expanded from direct-mail small-fry to boardroom big-shots. These new documents reveal the first two PowerPoints that Gillespie brought on the road, looking to reel in $30 million from GOP whales: Big Oil, Altria, Walmart, AT&T and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The first, from December 2009, was primitive and unpolished. It even suggested that the 2010 census would take place in 2011.

Perhaps its most important detail is buried in the appendix: Thirty-eight legislative chambers in 19 states will control the drawing of 253 congressional seats. This report even laid out the number of credible candidates and credible targets in each of those state chambers. But the goal was clear: Gillespie and Jankowski explained to donors that they were “drawing maps for the next five elections” and that “whoever controls that process controls the drawing of maps — shaping the political landscape for the next 10 years.”

By early 2010, the presentation had become sophisticated and precise. Its opening pages, revealed here, are titled “Congressional Redistricting: Drawing Maps for the Next Five Elections,” and it begins with a question: “How do we create 20-25 new Republican Congressional districts over the next five cycles and solidify a Republican Congressional majority?” The answer? “

“Maps matter,” the RSLC presentation continues. It calls maps the first tool in winning elections. In Texas, it explains, Democrats controlled the congressional delegation by a margin of 17 to 15 before the GOP won back the state legislature. Once Republicans had the pens in their own hands, that swung to 21-11 in the GOP’s favor the very next election.

The same process played out in Pennsylvania, where 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats had represented the state in 2000, before reapportionment cost the Keystone State two seats. Republicans controlled the legislature and “drew maps that put two Democrat Congressman into the same district and another in a heavy Republican district.” The result? A 12-7 GOP delegation on the new maps in 2002. In Georgia, however, which also received two extra seats after the 2000 reapportionment, Democrats ruled redistricting. The result, according to the RSLC? “Total Democrat control and a desire to maximize black Democrat representation resulted in a highly gerrymandered map.”

What will it take to dominate redistricting? Gillespie lays it out as an equation: Republicans can win 20 to 25 new seats in Congress for each of the next five electoral cycles with a $31.5 million investment on state legislative races in 2010. The cost of not acting? If the Democrats controlled those seats, or they remained swing districts, he estimated that mounting competitive campaigns in those 20-25 districts would cost $255 million over the next decade.

That $31.5 million would be spent micro-targeting state legislative districts that Republicans identified as crucial to winning state legislative chambers and dominating redistricting. There would be 6,000 state legislature races nationwide in 2010. The RSLC zeroed in on 107 of those in 16 states. Win those, according to the report, and Republicans could “fully control or affect the drawing of 9 new Congressional districts” awarded during reapportionment in Florida, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas and Utah. They could also affect the redrawing of maps in five states that were losing six districts after the census: Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.

Finally, the RSLC proposed “strengthening Republican redistricting power by flipping 15 chambers from Democrat to Republican control” and defending nine other GOP majorities. The key targets: Alabama’s House and Senate, both chambers in Colorado, the Indiana and Iowa House, the Nevada and New York Senate, both chambers in North Carolina, Ohio’s House, the Oregon Senate, the Pennsylvania House and both chambers in Wisconsin.

If Republicans didn’t make this investment, the Democrats — who were “organized,” “well-funded” and “focused on state campaigns” — just might. Unions had spent $126.6 million on state elections in 2008, he cautioned, and donated just under $5.4 million to Republicans.  What Gillespie and his team could not have known was that the highly prepared RSLC had already figured out Pokemon Go, while equivalent groups on the Democratic side were trying to get a stickball game going. Democrats lacked the imagination to see redistricting in a new way and failed to play defense in those 107 districts — even after a March 2010 Wall Street Journal op-ed by Karl Rove laid out the plan.

“We were prepared for the fights of the past,” Jessica Post, now the executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and a key leader behind the 2017 Democratic special election wins, told me for the epilogue of my book. “We could have done a better job of communicating to stakeholders what 2010 meant. When you’re in a legislative world you assume everyone knows.”

Republicans made no such assumptions. Gillespie presented the PowerPoint before movers and shakers in D.C. and nationwide, making the case that redistricting provided the GOP’s path back to power — at a discount-store price. “There is a lot at stake this year with state election results determining which party will draw U.S. House district boundaries in 2011,” Gillespie wrote the moneyed in-crowd invited to one such event, a redistricting breakfast at the powerful Nixon Peabody law firm. “What happens in state legislative races in 2010 will directly impact and shape the political landscape in Washington for the next 10 years.”

Not every effort was focused on the well-connected. The RSLC sent robocalls into Texas in June 2010 issuing the blunt message to Republicans that a Democratic majority in the Texas legislature could mean four more “Democrat Congressmen” in Washington. “Republicans only have a three-seat majority in the Texas House and there is a real possibility that Democrats could take the majority and elect a liberal Democrat speaker,” the taped call warned. “And then they’ll be in charge of the important redistricting process that will occur after the 2010 Census.” The call included three asks: The first at $75 or $100, the second at $50 or $60, the third, in order to “fight against Washington and President Obama,” settled for a smaller amount: “Can we count on you for $25 or would $30 be better today?”

But a goal of $30 million meant tapping deep pockets, and by late spring 2010, the big money was arriving. The 2010 national meeting of the RLCC was held in Atlanta from June 13 through 15 at the St. Regis Hotel. This time, agendas and calendars reveal, even the special sponsors breakfast required a $40,000 membership, and some of the biggest names in corporate America — Comcast, Coca-Cola, Altria, Archer Daniels Midland — were on board.

Gillespie presented at the State Leadership Luncheon and walked attendees through a June 2010 report, unreported until now, that included four tiers of state targets, focused on Michigan, Ohio and Texas — “where Republicans could gain as many as 14 new House seats” — as well as the New York Senate and Pennsylvania state House, where he suggested a pick-up of four seats was within reach. In all, Gillespie suggested the GOP could control 25 new House seats, while also picking up or holding eight state chambers. Eight additional chambers were toss-ups, with 16 more in play. “These predictions,” he added, a message to the money-men in the room, “assume REDMAP is fully funded.”

The roadshow roared through the South in June and July. Art Pope, a deep-pocketed and influential benefactor of conservative politics and ideas throughout North Carolina, hosted one event in Raleigh. Pope’s invitation, previously seen only by invited guests, was fiery: “As you know, in North Carolina, the Democratic Party drew gerrymandered Congressional and legislative districts, to rig the election results so that the Democrats won the majority of the seats, even when the majority of the people voted Republican,” he wrote. “We cannot stand by and let this happen again in 2011.”

Pope would put forth $36,500 of his own money for the RSLC that summer. The RSLC, meanwhile, sent $1.25 million to a group within Pope’s powerful network, Real Jobs NC. As detailed by The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, Real Jobs NC filled North Carolina’s airwaves with negative ads. Pope and groups closely related to him spent some $2.2 million targeting 22 Democratic legislators who were crucial to defeat if Republicans wanted to take control of state government. They beat 18 of them.

In his previously unseen thank-you note to Pope, Gillespie raved that their efforts were “a success and would not have been possible without your leadership and active participation.”

Other wealthy donors earned a more personal touch. Dr. John M. Templeton, president of the $28 billion John Templeton Foundation, would often write six-figure checks to conservative causes, especially those battling same-sex marriage. Understandably, Tim Barnes, the RSLC founder and finance chair, spent part of his summer reeling in this big fish. A previously unseen memo he sent Templeton on July 6, 2010, shows how Republican strategists framed their plans for the funders they needed most.

Barnes opens with down-ballot victories in 2008 and 2009: The GOP had registered 61 special election wins since Obama’s inauguration, plus off-year gains in New Jersey and Virginia. He described what the RSLC had already established in 2010: Seventy-two campaign schools for candidates and staff, a centralized data center for polling data and opposition research, the $14 million already in the bank.

But more would be needed for real change. Perhaps twice as much, Barnes confided; 2010 was looking good, “with the potential to be great.” That’s when he pivoted to REDMAP, a “program dedicated to winning state legislative seats that will have a critical impact on redistricting in 2011.” Barnes expressed optimism about the political climate. “It is only July and it is clear the GOP will hold every state legislative chamber that was thought to be in danger just 12 months ago,” he wrote, naming the Texas and Tennessee House and Michigan Senate as newly safe.

“If REDMAP accomplishes its goals (107 key races in 16 states) we can gain control of up to 25 congressional seats in redistricting — a key advantage going into 2012 congressional elections,” he concluded.

By the July 2010 report to donors, the RSLC could also report stellar political and fundraising results. In the group’s first political report to donors and others, it’s clear that REDMAP would be fully funded and that a Republican wave was taking shape. The RSLC could already predict to insiders that Democrats would not take control of a single state legislative chamber in 2010. Four GOP pickups appeared solid. Twelve Democratic chambers were in play. Better still, they wrote, key swing districts could be wiped off the table: “Nearly half of the traditionally swing districts,” they boasted, “will be redrawn by Republicans before the 2012 election cycle.”

There was even better news for the private September 2010 briefing, these new documents reveal. The RSLC predicted it would hold every GOP chamber, pick up at least 10 Democratic chambers, and place another 17 in play — all of them then held by the Democrats. “Because all GOP Chambers are ‘safe,’ number of key races is expanded to 119 races in 17 states.” That’s up from the 107 key races in 16 states from the original REDMAP plan. “The congressional redistricting impact is increased to 30 seats.”

Republicans spent October executing the final step of the plan: A negative-ad blitz dropped on Democratic state legislators during the last six weeks of an already challenging electoral cycle. REDMAP would spend more than half of its $30 million after Labor Day. As all the late money and negative ads hit, Democratic incumbents across Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin were buried. Republicans took both chambers in Wisconsin, which would become a laboratory for conservative governance in a purple state. They walked away with both houses in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan. Republicans captured Alabama’s legislature for the first time in decades. North Carolina fell their way, as did Indiana. In total, 680 state legislative seats changed hands. It was, as President Obama called it at the time, a “shellacking.”

Obama had no idea just how decisive it would prove: Republicans would hold the House for the rest of his presidency. Jankowski, however, realized exactly what it meant. Before going to bed that night, he told an Associated Press reporter that Democrats “will not soon recover from what happened to them on a state level on Tuesday. It was significant. It was devastating in some areas. It will take years to recover.”

Indeed, even while Democrats sense momentum as we draw closer to the 2018 midterms, the path back to power is steep. Republicans control nearly 70 percent of all state legislative chambers. Democrats have not flipped a congressional seat from red to blue during this entire decade in such ostensible swing states such as North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Those states alone currently send 49 Republicans and 20 Democrats to Washington — a 29-seat edge that’s larger, all by itself, than the overall current GOP House majority.

Democrats bled nearly 1,000 state legislative seats nationwide during the Obama era. They hold fewer than 40 percent of the lower-House seats in those five crucial purple states, with the sole but instructive exception of Michigan. In that state, Democrats have gotten more aggregate state House votes than Republicans in each of the last three statewide cycles but nevertheless have been unable to win more than 42 percent of the seats.

National polls suggest that Democrats have a significant lead on the 2018 generic congressional ballot — but multiple scholarly models suggest they’ll need to maintain an improbable advantage even to have a shot at winning a majority of the seats. Such an edge can dwindle fast: In October 2016, Democrats held an edge of 7 to 10 points in similar polls conducted by Reuters and NBC. Three weeks later, Republican candidates won more votes. How important are maps? Well, just to put this in context, the big GOP wave in 2010 was produced with 51.7 percent of the vote — far less than what Democrats will need this year.

That proved to be the right wave at the right time, with the right strategy. But the Republicans did not stop on Election Day and that explains why their advantage has proven so durable all decade. According to previously unreported meeting minutes, December brought a senior leadership retreat to get moving on 2011 and 2012, with an agenda including “what changes, what stays the same, amount of travel and where, other assistance, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, etc.” There was discussion about funders who proved very nervous to be identified with such a project: “We talked briefly about the disclosure issue in raising money for REDMAP. The extent at which companies and individuals were concerned about disclosure . . . was far greater than expected.”

After that it was time for another PowerPoint for the 2011 fundraising road show: “Many commented on how well organized and good the REDMAP PowerPoint was during 2010, looked like we were ahead of DLCC, knew what we were doing, etc.” The PowerPoint had to be ready for March. Fundraising needed to be underway by April. Nothing would be taken for granted.

Jankowski and Gillespie scheduled another Nixon Peabody breakfast to let the legislative leaders know that the RSLC would assume the advisory role on redistricting usually handled by the Republican National Committee. According to the previously private invitation, Gillespie and Rep. Tom Reynolds of New York, the former REDMAP chairman, would “discuss the important impact our efforts will have in securing and increasing the Republican majority in the U.S. House.”

The RSLC’s 527 arm, the State Government Leadership Foundation, stood ready to help and to foot the bill. REDMAP’s ultimate success, after all, would come not from winning in 2010, but from capitalizing on that victory for the next decade. They retained “seasoned redistricting experts” — led by Hofeller, the presenter of that original 2009 PowerPoint in Nashville — who would stand by, “happy to assist in drawing proposed maps, interpreting data, or providing advice.”

While one side of the operation focused on maps, the RSLC communication wing drafted op-eds under the name of Reynolds and his congressional colleague Bill McCollum of Florida, among others. They argued that Democrats faced oblivion at the state level because voters consistently rejected liberal policies. “It’s not about the maps, it’s about the message,” the RSLC argued. For more than two years, in one PowerPoint after another, from Nashville to Houston to Louisville, in fundraising pitches to zillionaires and small donors, the message was simple: Maps matter. Once victory was in hand, the message pivoted 180 degrees.

Gillespie took his victory lap at a private thank-you gala alongside RSLC’s legislative leaders. The “REDMAP Appreciation Luncheon” was held on March 7 at the tobacco giant Altria (formerly Philip Morris). The invitation spells out just how much Republicans had to celebrate. “In the 70 congressional districts that were labeled by National Public Radio as ‘competitive’ in 2010,” Barnes wrote, “Republicans now control the redrawing of at least 47 of those districts.” Behind closed doors, of course, maps still mattered.

Gillespie’s final talking point that day: “Conclude with thanking the RLCC corporate members for their investment. We did not spill a drop, [and] made maximum impact.”

David Daley is the author of “Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count,” a senior fellow at FairVote and the former editor-in-chief of Salon.

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The GOP Targets State Legislatures by Karl Rove, Wall Street Journal, March 03, 2010 http://www.rove.com/article/the-gop-targets-state-legislatures-16130 -

This article originally appeared on WSJ.com on Wednesday, March 3, 2010.

…The political world is fixated on whether this year’s elections will deliver an epic rebuke of President Barack Obama and his party. If that happens, it could end up costing Democrats congressional seats for a decade to come.

Some of the most important contests this fall will be way down the ballot in communities like Portsmouth, Ohio and West Lafayette, Ind., and neighborhoods like Brushy Creek in Round Rock, Texas, and Murrysville Township in Westmoreland County, Pa. These are state legislative races that will determine who redraws congressional district lines after this year’s census, a process that could determine which party controls upwards of 20 seats and whether many other seats will be competitive.

Next year, legislatures in the 44 states with more than one congressional seat will adjust their districts’ boundaries to account for changes in population.

Some 18 state legislatures could have an additional task. As many as 10 states will have to combine districts as they lose House seats. Eight states are expected to gain at least one seat each.

Seats will almost certainly move out of Democratic states (such as Michigan, New York and Massachusetts) and into Republican-leaning, faster-growing states (such as Arizona, Georgia, Texas and Utah). Battleground states such as Iowa and Ohio might also lose seats. This process will be marked by a historic event: For the first time since joining the union in 1850, California will probably not get any additional seat in Congress.

Control of the state legislature matters whether a state loses or gains seats. Take fast-growing Texas, which is expected to pick up as many as four seats next year. Democrats had a 17-13 edge in the state’s congressional delegation after the 2000 elections. Republicans won control of the Texas House in 2002 and redrew the state’s congressional map. As a result, the GOP now controls 20 congressional seats in Texas while Democrats control 12. Similarly in Georgia, following the 2000 census Democrats redrew district lines to give themselves control of the state’s two new congressional seats.

In Pennsylvania, Republicans controlled 11 congressional seats and Democrats 10 before reapportionment cost the Keystone State two seats in 2001. Afterward, the Republican legislature redrew the map to the GOP’s advantage, creating 12 Republican seats and seven Democratic ones. (Democrats later picked up some of those GOP seats.)

To understand the broader political implications, consider that the GOP gained somewhere between 25 and 30 seats because of the redistricting that followed the 1990 census. Without those seats, Republicans would not have won the House in 1994.

Control of redistricting also has huge financial implications. The average winner of a competitive House race in 2008 spent $2 million, while a noncompetitive seat can be defended for far less than half that amount. Moving, say, 20 districts from competitive to out-of-reach could save a party $100 million or more over the course of a decade.

There are 18 state legislative chambers that have four or fewer seats separating the two parties that are important for redistricting. Seven of these are controlled by Republicans and the other 11 are controlled by Democrats, including the lower houses in Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

Republican strategists are focused on 107 seats in 16 states. Winning these seats would give them control of drawing district lines for nearly 190 congressional seats. Six of these states are projected to pick up a total of nine seats, and five are expected to lose a combined six seats.

Nationally, the GOP’s effort will be spearheaded by the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). Funded by 80,000 donors, it spent more than $20 million in the last election cycle on legislative races and for attorney general, lieutenant governor and secretary of state campaigns.

The group recently announced that former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie will serve as its chairman and former New York Rep. Tom Reynolds will serve as both the group’s vice chairman and chair of a special redistricting effort.

Democrats already have a galaxy of at least six national groups coordinating on state legislative races. Among them are the union-based Foundation for the Future, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, and the Democracy Alliance. The last group has distributed $110 million for down-ballot races in recent years.

Over the past year and a half, Republicans have picked up six seats in the Virginia House of Delegates and one seat in the New Jersey Assembly and won 48 state legislative special elections, for a net gain nationally of 19 seats.

If the president’s dismal approval ratings cost his party additional state legislative seats and with them control of redistricting this fall, there will be plenty of Democrats bitter about how Mr. Obama has brought low his party’s fortunes. It seems that no Democrat, at any level, is immune to the politically poisonous effects of the Obama presidency.

This article originally appeared on WSJ.com on Wednesday, March 3, 2010.

The GOP Targets State Legislatures by Karl Rove

March 03, 2010 http://www.rove.com/article/the-gop-targets-state-legislatures-16130

The political world is fixated on whether this year’s elections will deliver an epic rebuke of President Barack Obama and his party. If that happens, it could end up costing Democrats congressional seats for a decade to come.

Some of the most important contests this fall will be way down the ballot in communities like Portsmouth, Ohio and West Lafayette, Ind., and neighborhoods like Brushy Creek in Round Rock, Texas, and Murrysville Township in Westmoreland County, Pa. These are state legislative races that will determine who redraws congressional district lines after this year’s census, a process that could determine which party controls upwards of 20 seats and whether many other seats will be competitive.

Next year, legislatures in the 44 states with more than one congressional seat will adjust their districts’ boundaries to account for changes in population.

Some 18 state legislatures could have an additional task. As many as 10 states will have to combine districts as they lose House seats. Eight states are expected to gain at least one seat each.

Seats will almost certainly move out of Democratic states (such as Michigan, New York and Massachusetts) and into Republican-leaning, faster-growing states (such as Arizona, Georgia, Texas and Utah). Battleground states such as Iowa and Ohio might also lose seats. This process will be marked by a historic event: For the first time since joining the union in 1850, California will probably not get any additional seat in Congress.

Control of the state legislature matters whether a state loses or gains seats. Take fast-growing Texas, which is expected to pick up as many as four seats next year. Democrats had a 17-13 edge in the state’s congressional delegation after the 2000 elections. Republicans won control of the Texas House in 2002 and redrew the state’s congressional map. As a result, the GOP now controls 20 congressional seats in Texas while Democrats control 12. Similarly in Georgia, following the 2000 census Democrats redrew district lines to give themselves control of the state’s two new congressional seats.

In Pennsylvania, Republicans controlled 11 congressional seats and Democrats 10 before reapportionment cost the Keystone State two seats in 2001. Afterward, the Republican legislature redrew the map to the GOP’s advantage, creating 12 Republican seats and seven Democratic ones. (Democrats later picked up some of those GOP seats.)

To understand the broader political implications, consider that the GOP gained somewhere between 25 and 30 seats because of the redistricting that followed the 1990 census. Without those seats, Republicans would not have won the House in 1994.

Control of redistricting also has huge financial implications. The average winner of a competitive House race in 2008 spent $2 million, while a noncompetitive seat can be defended for far less than half that amount. Moving, say, 20 districts from competitive to out-of-reach could save a party $100 million or more over the course of a decade.

There are 18 state legislative chambers that have four or fewer seats separating the two parties that are important for redistricting. Seven of these are controlled by Republicans and the other 11 are controlled by Democrats, including the lower houses in Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

Republican strategists are focused on 107 seats in 16 states. Winning these seats would give them control of drawing district lines for nearly 190 congressional seats. Six of these states are projected to pick up a total of nine seats, and five are expected to lose a combined six seats.

Nationally, the GOP’s effort will be spearheaded by the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). Funded by 80,000 donors, it spent more than $20 million in the last election cycle on legislative races and for attorney general, lieutenant governor and secretary of state campaigns.

The group recently announced that former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie will serve as its chairman and former New York Rep. Tom Reynolds will serve as both the group’s vice chairman and chair of a special redistricting effort.

Democrats already have a galaxy of at least six national groups coordinating on state legislative races. Among them are the union-based Foundation for the Future, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, and the Democracy Alliance. The last group has distributed $110 million for down-ballot races in recent years.

Over the past year and a half, Republicans have picked up six seats in the Virginia House of Delegates and one seat in the New Jersey Assembly and won 48 state legislative special elections, for a net gain nationally of 19 seats.

If the president’s dismal approval ratings cost his party additional state legislative seats and with them control of redistricting this fall, there will be plenty of Democrats bitter about how Mr. Obama has brought low his party’s fortunes. It seems that no Democrat, at any level, is immune to the politically poisonous effects of the Obama presidency.

When Election Regulators Are Mocked

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD, New York Times, April 13, 2013

Excerpt

It is an open scandal in Washington that the Federal Election Commission is completely ossified as the referee and penalizer of abuses in national politics.

Karl Rove’s powerful Crossroads GPS money machine cruelly underlined the agency’s impotence last week with a snippy rebuff of a legitimate inquiry from the commission staff about the shadowy sources of the group’s war chest. Crossroads GPS archly replied that continued inquiries on the matter “are unnecessary,” but that if they keep coming, it will offer the same unrevealing response.

This was no niggling issue. The election commission was asking for more details about the operation’s 2012 fourth-quarter report showing more than $50 million in independent expenditures but not a sign of who donated the money. The insulting rebuke to the agency should be thrown back with a unanimous demand that election law be obeyed. But this is the F.E.C., one of the sorrier federal agencies, where standoffs engineered by the three Republican commissioners on the six-seat panel have stymied efforts to write regulations and enforce them.

The result is a mounting backlog of complaints about blatant campaign abuses. Campaign operatives flout the law, knowing that the commission is toothless. The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision deregulating campaign spending by corporations and unions has yet to be spelled out in F.E.C. rules needed by campaign operations…[it is] a gaping failure in a democracy that is increasingly exploited by scheming professionals.

Full text

It is an open scandal in Washington that the Federal Election Commission is completely ossified as the referee and penalizer of abuses in national politics.

Karl Rove’s powerful Crossroads GPS money machine cruelly underlined the agency’s impotence last week with a snippy rebuff of a legitimate inquiry from the commission staff about the shadowy sources of the group’s war chest. Crossroads GPS archly replied that continued inquiries on the matter “are unnecessary,” but that if they keep coming, it will offer the same unrevealing response.

This was no niggling issue. The election commission was asking for more details about the operation’s 2012 fourth-quarter report showing more than $50 million in independent expenditures but not a sign of who donated the money. The insulting rebuke to the agency should be thrown back with a unanimous demand that election law be obeyed. But this is the F.E.C., one of the sorrier federal agencies, where standoffs engineered by the three Republican commissioners on the six-seat panel have stymied efforts to write regulations and enforce them.

The result is a mounting backlog of complaints about blatant campaign abuses. Campaign operatives flout the law, knowing that the commission is toothless. The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision deregulating campaign spending by corporations and unions has yet to be spelled out in F.E.C. rules needed by campaign operations. “Everything gets objected to,” Ellen Weintraub, a Democratic commissioner, told the journal CQ Roll Call. “Everything requires a lengthy discussion.”

At the end of this month the F.E.C., already with one unfilled vacancy, will have five members continuing to sit though their terms have expired. President Obama should fulfill his old campaign promise to nominate independent professionals to the commission. Senate Republicans would doubtlessly block his choices, but it would draw public attention to a gaping failure in a democracy that is increasingly exploited by scheming professionals.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/14/opinion/sunday/the-federal-election-commission-is-mocked.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130414&_r=0

Is Karl Rove Losing It?

by  Craig Unger , Salon.com, September 28, 2012

Excerpt

Karl Rove is back as GOP party bossschism between the GOP establishment he embodies and the Tea Party, which has begun to see him as a ruthless party boss…the Svengali-like party boss…who was brilliant at keeping George W. Bush on message….Nearly indicted in the Valerie Plame affair, Rove saw his patron exit the White House with the lowest approval ratings of any president in history. …who sees himself as a historic figure presiding over an enduring realignment of the American electorate…Remember the smears against John McCain in the 2000 primaries claiming that he’d fathered a child with an African-American prostitute? Or the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth whose falsehoods destroyed John Kerry? Push polls that spread rumors that Democratic candidates were lesbians or pedophiles? “Caging” tactics that challenged the voter registrations of African-American voters inOhio in 2004?

They were all dazzlingly effective strikes that were strategically timed and placed to take down the enemy — with no fingerprints. It just happened that, again and again, they benefited Karl Rove’s candidate.

This time, voter suppression may be Rove’s most powerful gambit. For nearly a decade, he has promoted voter ID laws, and in November at least 23 states will be impacted by GOP attempts to suppress the vote. According to theBrennanCenter for Justice at New York University School of Law, more than 5 million voters may be affected.

Meanwhile, whatever the outcome of the election, Karl Rove is playing the long game. He’s vying for complete control of the party. He still has his hands on the super PAC purse strings — and that money means he runs the Republican Party. Even if Romney loses, he will still be in control. It’s just that he may be thinking about 2016 a bit earlier than he had planned.

 

Full text

Karl Rove is back as GOP party boss, but this time it’s clear that even the best-laid plans of the savviest political strategists often go awry.

That became obvious earlier this week, on Sept. 25, whenMissourisenatorial candidate Todd Akin reaffirmed that he was staying in the race in defiance of Rove, who had demanded Akin’s withdrawal and yanked American Crossroads’ millions from his campaign after Akin touted the prophylactic character of “legitimate rape.”

When pulling the super PAC dough didn’t faze the stubborn Missouri Tea Partyer, Rove went ballistic. “We should sink Todd Akin,” he declared [2], according to Bloomberg Businessweek. “If he’s found mysteriously murdered, don’t look for my whereabouts!”

Rove’s remarks did more than just reopen the schism between the GOP establishment he embodies and the Tea Party, which has begun to see him as a ruthless party boss. It also showed that the Republicans have another serious problem in addition to Mitt Romney’s disastrous candidacy: Karl Christian Rove.

Rove’s comment about Akin was not the first time this campaign that he linked himself to murder. At the Republican convention in Tampa, in response to a question I asked him at a CSPAN-televised event, Rove falsely asserted that my new book, “Boss Rove: Inside Karl Rove’s Secret Kingdom of Power,” accused him of being a murderer — an apparent reference to the 2008 death of his computer guru, Mike Connell. Again, the “murder” comment was off point and completely unnecessary.

Let’s get this straight: Out of the blue, this highly disciplined, message-centric Machiavellian strategist has completely unnecessarily associated himself with murder. Twice. What is Karl Rove smoking?

If the Svengali-like party boss behind Romney has fallen to such depths, it should come as no surprise that the candidate himself has performed so poorly. For starters, Rove hasn’t had the close personal relationship with Romney he had with Bush and has had to project his influence via surrogates in Romney’s high command, specifically, former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie, the co-founder with Rove of American Crossroads, who is now a high-level Romney strategist; Beth Myers, a former Rove protégé who served as Romney’s chief of staff and oversaw the selection process of the vice-presidential nominee; Carl Forti, the political director of American Crossroads who helped start Romney’s PAC, Restore Our Future; and media strategist Stuart Stevens, a Bush/Rove veteran; and others.

After the Republican convention inTampa, however, Rove’s shadow operation fell prey to bitter infighting, with Stevens taking the heat for the Clint Eastwood fiasco and for Romney’s failure to mentionAfghanistanin his speech.

For Rove, who was brilliant at keeping George W. Bush on message, working via remote control with Romney has been a disaster. The theme of the Republican National Convention — “We Built It” — is already a distant memory, even though untold millions in prime-time ad dollars were poured into it just a month ago. Meanwhile, Romney has unwittingly replaced it with his own self-destructive narrative that dismisses 47 percent of the American people as dependent victims and reinforces the notion that he is a multimillionaire who doesn’t give a whit about most Americans.

Of course, to pundits who saw Rove as a creature of the Bush dynasty, it is a surprise that he is back in the game at all. Nearly indicted in the Valerie Plame affair, Rove saw his patron exit the White House with the lowest approval ratings of any president in history. Then, in 2008, Rove, who sees himself as a historic figure presiding over an enduring realignment of the American electorate, watched his dreams of a permanent Republican majority vanish in a Democratic sweep of the House, the Senate and the White House.

But the Democrats failed to drive a stake through Rove’s heart. As I recount in “Boss Rove,” after the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision in 2010, Rove co-founded American Crossroads and its sister group, Crossroads GPS, to become king of the super PACs. He then used his position at Fox News and the Wall Street Journal to take potshots at Romney’s GOP rivals. All of which left Boss Rove sitting in the catbird seat overseeing as much as a billion dollars in super PAC funding to be spent in the general election.

But now it is questionable as to whether even that vast sum can repair the damage wrought by Romney’s candidacy. If Rove decides Romney is a lost cause, he can divert huge sums to key Senate races — and in large measure he has already begun to do that. But abandoning Romney completely will hurt down-ballot GOP candidates nationwide.

Of course, money is not the only weapon in Rove’s arsenal. Remember the smears against John McCain in the 2000 primaries claiming that he’d fathered a child with an African-American prostitute? Or the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth whose falsehoods destroyed John Kerry? Push polls that spread rumors that Democratic candidates were lesbians or pedophiles? “Caging” tactics that challenged the voter registrations of African-American voters inOhio in 2004?

They were all dazzlingly effective strikes that were strategically timed and placed to take down the enemy — with no fingerprints. It just happened that, again and again, they benefited Karl Rove’s candidate.

This time, voter suppression may be Rove’s most powerful gambit. For nearly a decade, he has promoted voter ID laws, and in November at least 23 states will be impacted by GOP attempts to suppress the vote. According to theBrennanCenter for Justice at New York University School of Law, more than 5 million voters may be affected.

Meanwhile, whatever the outcome of the election, Karl Rove is playing the long game. He’s vying for complete control of the party. He still has his hands on the super PAC purse strings — and that money means he runs the Republican Party. Even if Romney loses, he will still be in control. It’s just that he may be thinking about 2016 a bit earlier than he had planned.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/karl-rove-losing-it

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org/authors/craig-unger
[2] http://www.businessweek.com/printer/articles/69276-exclusive-inside-karl-roves-billionaire-fundraiser
[3] http://www.alternet.org/tags/karl-rove
[4] http://www.alternet.org/tags/gop
[5] http://www.alternet.org/tags/todd-akin
[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/republican-0
[7] http://www.alternet.org/tags/conservative
[8] http://www.alternet.org/tags/romney-0
[9] http://www.alternet.org/tags/election-2012
[10] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

Bush’s failed Machiavelli messes up big time

by Andrew Sullivan, Times/UK, March 25, 2007

If you have a reputation for being a Machiavellian, you aren’t one. That was Machiavelli’s view, at least. The key to all successful power-mongers, he argued, is the appearance of innocence, and a reputation for honesty and benevolence. Underneath, of course, you’re stitching the system up.

So it doesn’t take a genius to realise that if Niccolo were around today he would laugh heartily at the idea that Karl Rove is a master of the art of ruthless politics.

President George W Bush’s right-hand man has a reputation as one of the nastiest, toughest players in the business. Last week Congress prepared but did not deliver a subpoena to have him testify about the highly suspicious firing of eight allegedly independent US attorneys in battle-ground states. He is regarded as being at the centre of the outing of Valerie Plame, the former covert CIA agent.

A true Machiavellian would never be associated with these tawdry and counterproductive political manoeuvres. A true Machiavellian would keep his eyes on the big power moves while coming off like Mother Teresa.

But just as Rove has become entangled in petty scandal, he has bungled the bigger strategy as well. Six years into the Bush presidency Rove’s fantasy of a permanent Republican majority is fast becoming a B-movie of a broken political movement.

The myth of Rove’s political brilliance is not hard to dispel. He has often picked the easiest and sleaziest short-term tactic over the more difficult long-term strategy. He began his career race-baiting and liberal-bashing a moribund Democratic party in the Deep South. It wasn’t hard to fell those teetering timbers in the 1970s and 1980s.

Yes he shepherded Bush to be governor of Texas in the 1990s, but again the political winds were strongly behind him. Texas had been trending Republican ever since the Lyndon B Johnson era, and Rove found in Bush a congenial and single-minded fellow to occupy a relatively weak executive office.

Rove does deserve credit for creating an aura of inevitability around Bush in 1999 and 2000, and for sliming John McCain in the South Carolina primary (after a near-fatal setback for Bush in New Hampshire). But much of the credit for Bush’s eventual razor-thin victory goes to Al Gore.

Even so, Rove actually advised Bush to stop campaigning the weekend before the vote, and suppressed a drunk-driving record that emerged very late in the campaign and nearly derailed the entire effort. These tactical errors made Bush’s victory a statistical rounding error.

Then came what in retrospect seems the stupidest decision made in a very long time in American politics. Rove advised a moderate, congenial and compassionate Republican, elected with a minority of the popular vote, to forget about retaining the political centre. Rove believed that appealing to moderates was a fool’s game when there were millions of alienated evangelical voters waiting to be tapped.

“Play to the base” was Rove’s mantra — and he could create what he called a “permanent majority”. If four or five million fundamentalists who had previously never voted could be marshalled into a new political movement, victory would be his. The rest could be bribed with large amounts of government spending (cash for churches, pills for the elderly, tax breaks for big business, tariffs for steel, subsidies for agriculture).

So Bush cut taxes, turned on the spending spigot and stuck to a strictly religious line on social policy: no new federal embryonic stem cell research, judicial appointments designed to reverse the Roe vs Wade case that established women’s right to abortion, a constitutional amendment to ban civil recognition of gay couples and a clumsy attempt to play politics with Terri Schiavo, a woman in Florida in a permanent vegetative state.

Bush’s response to 9/11 fell exactly into this Rovian pattern. Some war leaders respond to an attack by bringing the opposition party into their cabinet (as Winston Churchill did) and creating a government of national unity. Bush did the opposite, forging a war policy solely in the executive branch, sidelining the Senate and then running a mid-term election strategy by accusing Democrats of being soft on terror. It worked in the short term. But by the 2004 election the strains were beginning to show. Mistakes in Iraq were not viewed as national faults, to be corrected, but as the president’s sole responsibility, to be denied.

In wartime, Americans tend to back their president: those reelected to a second term do so with big majorities. Bush, thanks to Rove, broke this pattern, gaining a mere 51% in wartime with an economy goosed by Keynesian spending. Yes, he won — and he was lucky again in his opponents. But the basic structure was weak.

Just how weak is beginning to become clear. The Rove coalition has no viable candidate for 2008. Rudy Giuliani is a social liberal; McCain loathes the Rove base, and the feeling is mutual; Mitt Romney was only very recently boasting that he would be more pro-gay than Edward Kennedy. Evangelicals are splitting between those who want to keep their focus on sexual issues and those who want to take a more public stand on issues such as the environment and torture.

The mismanaged war has removed the Republicans’ advantage on national security. The younger generation is overwhelmingly Democratic. I remember when it was actually cool to be conservative. Those days are gone. In 2002 the parties were tied at 43% each across all Americans. After five more years of Bush, according to a survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center released last week, the Democrats have 50% support compared with the Republicans’ 35%.

The survey also found big drops in religious intensity and big increases in the percentage eager to see government play a larger role in taking care of the poor. One of Rove’s ideological legacies may be the revival of old-school liberalism.

What Rove has also done by centring the Republican party in the Deep South is alienate many moderates and centre-right voters in the Rocky Mountains and Midwest. A state such as Colorado that was once evenly split now looks increasingly Democratic. California — the state of Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon — was abandoned long ago. And the one issue that really fires up the white base of the Republican party is hostility to illegal immigration. But a policy like that could turn off the huge and growing Hispanic vote, isolating the Republicans even further into a white, narrow and angry image.

Rove, in other words, may be on the verge of a historic realignment of the kind he used to boast of. He may indeed have created a new and permanent majority — but for the Democrats, not the Republicans. Machiavelli would be unimpressed.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/andrew_sullivan/article1563268.ece

Look who’s covertly controlling the GOP

Karl Rove, Scheming Election Theft and Raising a Fortune for Vicious Attack Ads, Democracy Now! [1] / By Amy Goodman [2], Craig Unger [3]  posted on Alternet.org, August 22, 2012

The following is a transcript of a Democracy Now! interview with Craig Unger on Karl Rove’s comeback. 

Excerpt

AG… Karl Rove has become the ulti­mate party boss.…

CU:… it’s worth going back to how he got power back in the 1980s [in] ­Texas…to show Karl Rove’s power dur­ing the Bush years… in 2000…in O­hio in 2004Rove did a lot of things that were sort of under the radar and that I think have endur­ing con­se­quences, and they rep­re­sent real threats to democ­racy…I don’t think he’s an ide­o­logue. I think he’s about win­ning….There’s always been this talk of a per­ma­nent Repub­li­can major­ity that Rove is try­ing to forge, and he sees it, the nation, as being entirely Repub­li­can….…Karl Rove barely escaped indict­ment and rose to be the biggest pow­er­house, polit­i­cal pow­er­house, in Amer­ica today…the Valerie Plame scan­dal…Joe Wil­son…Sad­dam Hus­sein…Pres­i­dent Bush’s State of the Union address that called for war against and launched the war again­st I­raq. And the alle­ga­tions, of course, were not just false, but they were based on forged doc­u­ments…this showed that they would stop at noth­ing to main­tain their nar­ra­tive…it’s most impor­tant to under­stand about this man who has now become per­haps the most pow­er­ful polit­i­cal oper­a­tive in America…

Full text

Our guest for the hour is Craig Unger, who has written Boss Rove: Inside Karl Rove’s Secret Kingdom of Power. In it, he writes, “Undeniably, he’s back,” talking about Karl Rove. “He has re-invented himself. He is not merely Bush’s Brain; he’s the man who swallowed the Republican Party. As the maestro orchestrating the various super-pacs, he has inspired the wealthiest people on the right to pony up what could amount to $1 billion and has created an unelected position for himself of real enduring power with no term limits. Karl Rove has become the ultimate party boss.” Craig Unger, lay out his rise to power, his fall, and then his rise again.

CRAIG UNGER: Right. Well, I think a lot of people saw him as a creature of the Bush family, and then that was it, and then it was all over in 2008 when Bush left the White House. And that was not the case at all.

And it’s worth going back to how he got power back in the 1980s. And there was not much of a Texas Republican Party in those years, partly becauseTexas had powerful conservative Democrats, like John Connolly and Lloyd Bentsen, so the big business people who normally would give to the Republicans said, “Well, why bother? We’re getting what we want from Connolly and Bentsen.” Rove got around that by creating political action committees, and he took an issue that seemed obscure at the time, known as tort reform. It’s giving the rights of people to collect in product liability cases. And he went to Philip Morris, who put him on his payroll, and to big pharmaceutical companies and so forth and said, “Look, you guys risk billions and billions of dollars in product liability. Give a few million to my candidates, and we will take over the Texas Supreme Court, we’ll take over theTexas legislature, we’ll put George W. Bush in as governor, and we will save you billions of dollars.” And he did precisely that. And he ended up with—he flipped the—theTexas Supreme Court was completely dominated by Democrats. It became completely Republican. And he ended up with some very loyal campaign contributors, like Bob Perry—who is no relation to Rick Perry—Harold Simmons and so forth. These areTexas billionaires. And they’ve stuck with him for about 30 years. So, that’s really the first phase.

The key moment then came in 2010, and this was the Republican Party was in crisis, as it appears to be again today. And if you—Michael Steele was chairman of the RNC. And you may remember, in early 2010, there was an episode where Republican donors were being entertained at a lesbian bondage-themed strip club. And—

AMY GOODMAN: InCalifornia.

CRAIG UNGER: InCalifornia, exactly. And partly as a result of that and other things, big money people just refused to give anything to the Republican Party.

AMY GOODMAN: And this was a time when the Republican—when the RNCwas broke.

CRAIG UNGER: Absolutely, absolutely. It was also just after a landmark Supreme Court decision, Citizens United. And this opened the gateways for people to give unlimited contributions to super PACs. And so, Karl Rove had a luncheon at his home inWashington,D.C., on Weaver Terrace. He had about two dozen people there. These were the bigwigs in—it was co-sponsored by Ed Gillespie, who had been former chairman of the RNC. And he came away with millions and millions of dollars, and this represented the birth of the super PAC of American Crossroads, Crossroads GPS and so forth.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, before we go forward, I wanted to go back a little further to show—to show Karl Rove’s power during the Bush years, both in 2000 and then—you devote an entire chapter to what happened inOhio in 2004. And a lot of people might not remember this or might not have even known to begin with.

CRAIG UNGER: Right. Well, Rove did a lot of things that were sort of under the radar and that I think have enduring consequences, and they represent real threats to democracy. One of them was theU.S. attorneys scandal, and I think it was widely misunderstood. And, you know, this was—became best known when eightUnited States attorneys were fired for sort of not toeing the Republican Party line. Now, in fact, to me, the real question is not what happened in the unjust firing of those eight people; it’s what about the otherU.S. attorneys who were appointed by the Bush administration and were toeing the party line? What were they doing? And what we see happening is that they were prosecuting Democrats, essentially. This is best—it came through best in—I think the most egregious case of this is inAlabama, and it’s the case of former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman, who will probably—in early September, will face going to jail for eight years. And I think this is one of the most egregious, unjust acts we’ve seen from the Justice Department.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: I want to turn former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, who was found guilty in a 2006 corruption case. Critics say Siegelman was the target of a political witch hunt, in part orchestrated by former Bush administration deputy Karl Rove. Democracy Now! spoke to Siegelman [4] about his case in early 2009. We asked if he believed Karl Rove was involved in his prosecution. Let’s just go to his response.

DON SIEGELMAN: I was brought to trial one month before the Democratic primary by Karl Rove’s best friend’s wife, who was the U.S. attorney in the Middle District of Alabama, on charges that theNew York Times said have never been a crime in America. Grant Woods, who’s the Republican—was the Republican attorney general fromArizona, said that they couldn’t beat Siegelman fair and square, so they targeted him with this prosecution. We have sworn testimony from a Republican political operative, Jill Simpson, who said that she was on a conversation with my prosecutor’s husband, who said that he had talked to Karl Rove, and Rove had spoken to the Department of Justice, and everything was wired in for them to—for the Department of Justice to pursue me.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: That’s former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman speaking to Democracy Now! in 2006. Siegelman is now appealing his prison sentence three weeks before he’s scheduled to report to federal prison to complete a more than six-year sentence.

CRAIG UNGER: Right. Well, I think Siegelman is absolutely right. I mean, it’s not the prettiest part of the American political system, but it’s sort of standard operating procedure that sometimes campaign contributors get political appointments. And in Siegelman’s case, Siegelman personally got zero dollars. He appointed a contributor to a non-paying state-appointed position. And if he’s to go to jail—George W. Bush gave appointments to over a hundred campaign contributors and was not prosecuted on any one of those. And it really has been standard operating procedure. Hundreds of ambassadors throughout the years, in one administration after another, have been campaign contributors.

And what you see that happened—and this is really under Rove’s aegis—is selective prosecution. And I think there’s nothing more damaging democracy than when laws are applied only to one group. And as I began to research this, I saw that, you know, you may notice that a mayor ofAlabamawas indicted or investigated, a mayor ofHonoluluwas investigated just before an election, mayor ofMiami, mayor ofSan Francisco. And all in all, I found mayors of 12 major cities. There’sCleveland;Detroit;Portland,Oregon;New Orleans;Chicago;Philadelphia;Pittsburgh;MemphisandDallas. What do they all have in common? They are Democrats. They are governors and lieutenant governors from five states—Alabama,Hawaii,Michigan,New JerseyandMaryland—and on and on, over 200 politicians, and 85 percent of them are Democrats. And I think there’s no data suggests that the Democratic Party is seven times more corrupt than the Republicans.

AMY GOODMAN: But how do you tie this all to Karl Rove?

CRAIG UNGER: Well, there is the testimony, as Siegelman said, of a former Republican operative named Jill Simpson, and she testified before the House Judiciary Committee. Now—excuse me—Rove in GQ magazine said she didn’t dare mention his name. His name is in it zero times, zero times. I went back to the testimony. In fact, his name is in it at least 50 times, and it’s—and she explicitly makes it clear that he was involved. What happened with the Siegelman prosecution is a colleague of Rove’s named Bill Canary was sort of the Karl Rove out ofAlabama. He was handling the Republican gubernatorial candidate, Republican senatorial candidates and so forth. And who was appointedU.S. attorney inAlabama but Canary’s wife. So he was in this wonderful position. When he was running a campaign, his wife would simply indict the Democratic opponent. And that’s exactly what happened.

AMY GOODMAN: So now let’s go back toOhio, in fact,Ohio and SMARTech. This is the one chance you ever had to question Karl Rove about that.

CRAIG UNGER: Exactly. And I met Karl Rove inAlabama, and I asked him. And he said, “SMARTech? What’s that? I’ve never heard of it.”

Well, SMARTech is a high-tech company inChattanooga. And what you see with Rove’s methodology is he manages to have things happen in his benefit, and there are no fingerprints. But I traced the ownership of SMARTech and its precursors, and the original company was funded by two—its precursor, rather, was funded by two Republicans named Bill DeWitt and Mercer Reynolds. Mercer Reynolds was finance chairman of the Republican Party. In ’04, he raised about a quarter of a billion dollars for the Bush-Cheney campaign. And in the ’80s, they had bailed out George W. Bush in his oil ventures, DeWitt and Reynolds had. So they were very, very close to him.

And this company started off as a very legitimate high-tech company inChattanoogaduring the dot-com boom. It later reformed under a different name and different ownership, but by then it had become very much a political operation. So, this was a highly, highly partisan Republican high-tech company. It hosted—its biggest clients included the Bush-Cheney campaign, it included Jeb Bush, it included the Republican National Committee. It streamed live the convention, the Republican convention.

And somehow or other, in 2004, in the state of Ohio, which was the single most crucial state in the electoral college, when it came to the actual voting, the secretary of state of Ohio, a guy named Ken Blackwell—and the secretary of state’s job is to—part of it is to ensure fair, nonpartisan elections—happened to be co-chair of the Bush campaign. Now, there’s no conflict there. And he gave a contract to host the fail oversight for the Republican—rather, for the votes in 2004, to none other than SMARTech. And this is where things went a little crazy.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: But how was that allowed to happen even? I mean—

CRAIG UNGER: Well, I mean, I think it is a huge conflict of interest on the face of it for the secretary of state of a party to be affiliated with one campaign or the other. And we saw it, of course, inFlorida in 2000 with Katherine Harris.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, 2004, election night, tell us the story.

CRAIG UNGER: Right, Well, about at 11:14 p.m., things started to happen, exactly 11:14 p.m. And as the votes came in, it was clear it was going to be an all-nighter in terms of the results. And around 11:00,Florida was called for Bush, and that meant the entire fate of the election hinged onOhio. So, suddenly—excuse me—the servers for the secretary of state’s computers were flooded with queries.

AMY GOODMAN: Ohio secretary of state.

CRAIG UNGER: Exactly. And they needed to lock into the fail oversight inChattanooga with SMARTech. And this is where the results went a little crazy. And suddenly, an enormous number of irregular returns came in, and the votes shifted. The exit polls had shown Kerry winningOhio, and therefore the election. And it looked like he had won the presidential election. I remember that day vividly because I was getting reports from the exit polls, and I went around telling people it looked like Kerry had won. But there was a 6.7 percent difference between the exit polls and the actual results. And as a result, the election ended up going to Bush. And that was the entire story.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: In writing about what happened in Ohio as well as in Alabama, one of the things that you say about Rove is that a case can be made that for the last three decades he’s been putting a systematic attempt to game the American electoral system by whatever means necessary. What kind of vision does Karl Rove have for the Republican Party and for American politics?

CRAIG UNGER: Right. Well, I don’t think he’s an ideologue. I think he’s about winning. And he’s often been compared to a guy named Mark Hanna, who more than a century ago was the political mind behind President William McKinley. He was a senator fromOhio, but he was also a political operative who put McKinley in the White House and forged a realignment. There’s always been this talk of a permanent Republican majority that Rove is trying to forge, and he sees it, the nation, as being entirely Republican. And, in fact, I think that’s Rove’s line, and I don’t buy it.

He faces, and the Republican Party faces, an extraordinary challenge in the—with the Hispanic boom. There are now 50 million Hispanics in theUnited States. In 2020, at the current rate of growth, there will be 70 million. If they start to vote, they tend to lean heavily Democratic, and you will start to see states likeTexasandArizonaflip from red to blue. And Rove is trying to stop that. And one campaign he’s supported is what is known as a campaign fighting voter fraud. And as I found out, I think the fraud about—theBrennanCenterat the NYUSchool of Law says the fraud about—voter fraud is itself a fraud. And there have only been 10 documented cases of people voting under false names in the first decade of this century. So, why—but in response to that minuscule number, there are campaigns in more than 30 states to have voter—require voter IDs and so forth. This will inhibit voting from new immigrants, from minorities, from the elderly and so forth, who, again, lean heavily Democratic.

AMY GOODMAN: Before we go to break, I want to go one more time back toOhio, because you really focus on these issues in the book. Michael Connell, who he was, and what his death meant?

CRAIG UNGER: Right. Well, he was known as Rove’s sort of cyber-guru, and he had a company called New Media that was—hosted all its work at SMARTech, as I—the company I mentioned earlier. And what you see there is, again, a highly partisan Republican operative who gets involved in what are supposed to be nonpartisan activities. And there were a number of things going on there. What first struck my attention is he got contracts to host the House Judiciary Committee, the House Intelligence Committee, a lot of government committees, which included emails and so forth of Democrats. And I thought back to Watergate, of course, when the Republicans broke in to get one file from the Watergate office. Here, they presumably had access to thousands and thousands of files for many, many years. Whether they used that or not, I don’t really know.

They were also—you know, but Connell—one of the things that’s very interesting is how evidence disappeared again and again and again in this case. And what you saw is that in all of these scandals—in the U.S. attorneys scandal and the Valerie Plame scandal—Rove’s emails were subpoenaed, and they were hosted at SMARTech. And, oops, millions of emails mysteriously disappeared. Now, these were supposedly under the—protected by the Presidential Preservation Records Act [Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act], and the destruction of government documents is a very, very serious crime. But every attempt to investigate turns up naught. And Mike Connell became increasingly an important witness in this case. He was subpoenaed once. There was a case investigating the 2004 election. He was supposed to testify again. And finally, before he could testify again, he died in a plane crash, in a solo private plane.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: I want to ask you about Stephen Spoonamore, a former John McCain supporter and a highly successful expert of the detection of computer fraud. In 2008, he named Mike Connell and his company, GovTech Solutions, as having played a crucial role in the electronic subversion of the vote in Ohio in 2004. I want to ask you more about Spoonamore, but first I want to turn to a 2008 interview Democracy Now! did with the media scholar Mark Crispin Miller [5] shortly after Mike Connell died in a plane crash. In this clip, Miller says Connell asked Spoonamore how one would go about destroying White House emails.

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Stephen Spoonamore is a conservative Republican, a former McCain supporter and a very prominent expert at the detection of computer fraud. He’s the star witness in theOhio lawsuit, right, in which Connell was involved. He has done extensive work of this kind, involving computer security, and had therefore worked with Connell, knew Connell personally and knew a lot of the people who were involved in the sort of cyber-security end of the Bush operation.

Despite his conservatism—or I suppose some would say because of it—he’s a man of principle—I mean, believes in the Constitution. He believes elections should be honest. He’s the one who came forward and named Connell.

And I have seen his notes of a conversation in which Connell asked Spoonamore how one would go about destroying White House emails. To this, Spoonamore said, “This conversation is over. You’re asking me to do something illegal.” But clearly, clearly—this is the important point—Mike Connell was up past his eyeballs in the most sensitive and explosive aspects of this crime family that, you know, has been masquerading as a political party.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was Mark Crispin Miller speaking to Democracy Now!Do you think Ohio 2004 was stolen, and do you think it’s possible that something like that could happen in the 2012 election?

CRAIG UNGER: Well, there was no question there was massive fraud. If you want to actually count the votes, unfortunately it’s impossible because so much evidence was destroyed. And then that’s why Mike Connell was such an important witness, and his death meant that—you know, I quoted—I talked to Mike Connell’s sister, who said either—there are only two possibilities, really, that Connell was murdered—and I don’t see any evidence of that—or that he was in an accident, in which case Karl Rove is the luckiest man alive.

Could this happen again? I think—you know, I think electronic voting is very, very dangerous, and it’s very easy to manipulate. But I also found evidence inOhioof extraordinary kinds of fraud that could happen with punchcard ballots, as well, through very elaborate and byzantine means of—known as cross-voting. And I think a lot of people don’t realize, when you go into a voting booth and you see another voting booth nearby, if you voted the same way in the adjoining booth, in the wrong booth, or if your punchcard is counted by the different computer, it would register to a different vote. And we saw this happened—

AMY GOODMAN: I don’t understand.

CRAIG UNGER: Well, inOhio, they have what is known as a rotation of ballot. That is, they decide that—whoever’s at the top of the ballot has roughly a 2 percent advantage over the candidate below him. So, to compensate for that, they actually rotate the ballot sequence from one precinct to another, which makes a certain amount of sense. But the voter doesn’t know that. Now, if your—

AMY GOODMAN: So you might have Romney on top in one ballot, Obama on top on another ballot.

CRAIG UNGER: Exactly. So precinct one has Romney on top. If it’s counted by precinct two, however, the vote goes to the wrong person. And we saw a lot of that inOhio. And the giveaway was in an African-American precinct, where there were third-party people on the ballot there, including a white supremacist—someone linked to a white supremacist party. And suddenly in this African-American precinct, this—and African Americans tend to be very, very disciplined Democratic voters. They’ve been 95 percent Democratic in the past. And suddenly, this man who is linked to a white supremacist got 40 percent of the vote. And you could see exactly what had happened.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Craig Unger. His new book is Boss Rove: Inside Karl Rove’s Secret Kingdom of Power. When we come back from break, how Karl Rove barely escaped indictment and rose to be the biggest powerhouse, political powerhouse, inAmerica today. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: ”MC Rove,” performed at the 2007 Radio and TV Correspondents Dinner, with NBC’s David Gregory, Karl Rove among the backup dancers. Yes, this is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. And we’re speaking with Craig Unger. His new book, Boss Rove: Inside Karl Rove’s Secret Kingdom of Power. We’re going to turn right now to another scandal involving Karl Rove, the outing of former CIA agent Valerie Plame. The Bush administration outed her in retaliation for her husband Joe Wilson’s accusations that President Bush lied aboutIraq’s alleged efforts to purchase uranium formNiger before theIraq war. It was the whole deceit around weapons of mass destruction. Let’s begin by playing the famous comment of Joe Wilson in 2003.

JOSEPH WILSON: At the end of the day, it’s of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frogmarched out of the White House in handcuffs.

AMY GOODMAN: That was the famous comment of Joe Wilson, Valerie Plame’s husband, frogmarching Karl Rove out of the White House in handcuffs. Craig Unger, explain what the Valerie Plame scandal was and what Karl Rove had to do about—with it and why he was almost indicted.

CRAIG UNGER: Right. Well, the Valerie Plame scandal, of course, was—Joe Wilson had been an ambassador to African countries. He was sent to check out allegations that theRepublic ofNiger had sold or was trying to sell yellowcake uranium to Saddam Hussein. This became part of the 16 words in President Bush’s State of the Union address that called for war against and launched the war againstIraq. And the allegations, of course, were not just false, but they were based on forged documents. And worse than that, the forged documents had been revealed as forgeries, I found at least 14 times, within the administration before Bush’s speech, but they still got in it, and the war went ahead with it.

Since Wilson had discovered they were—the allegations were false, he later wrote a very famous column, an op-ed piece [6] in the New York Times, saying what I found in Africa ["What I Didn’t Find in Africa"], and he revealed that. And this was destroying the Rovian narrative, the Bush administration’s narrative. So, in retaliation, they outed his wife, Joe Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, who was a CIAagent, and exposed her. And that’s what it was all about. And this showed that they would stop at nothing to maintain their narrative. They were trying to discredit Joe Wilson. I think they sort of didn’t realize exactly how far they were going. And this was potentially a crime, so this started the whole Valerie Plame investigation.

Now, Bush said he would fire anyone who was responsible for this leak. And one thing that’s absolutely clear is that Rove, though he was not the only one—Scooter Libby was later indicted and convicted—Rove played a very, very key role in this. And he did leak Valerie Plame’s name—rather, her identity, that she was a wife. At one point he said, “I didn’t say her name.” Well, he said this is Joe — “Joe Wilson’s wife is a CIA agent. She set up everything.” And he told that toTime magazine reporter Matt Cooper. So, and Rove went on to lie about it again and again.

I think there’s, oddly enough, a link in those two clips you just showed of MC Rove dancing with the press and Joe Wilson, because what is important here, in some way, is the press’s complicity with this. What you see is, when Karl Rove is your source, you are beholden to him. I read Bob Novak’s memoirs, the late columnist, who was the man who first printed Valerie Plame’s name. And he says, rather tellingly, that “Karl Rove was my A-plus source for many, many years.” And he was sort of Novak’s meal ticket. And Novak goes on to say, “But when that happens, of course, you never write a critical word about him.” And a lot of the press was like that. And you see in that clip a lot of the correspondents dancing with Rove.

AMY GOODMAN: How did Rove escape indictment? I mean, Scooter Libby went down, Judith Miller.

CRAIG UNGER: Well, I think it was by a sheer stroke of luck. And there was a woman reporter at Time magazine named Viveca Novak—no relation to Bob Novak. And she would have drinks occasionally with Rove’s lawyer, Bob Luskin. And occasionally, they—during one conversation, Rove’s lawyer said, “Well, Karl is in danger from Matt Cooper at Time.” And she let it slip that, yes, he was. And this was—so, suddenly, Rove was being called before the grand jury, I think a total of five times. He had said again and again that he had not leaked it to anyone. He said that he didn’t recall any conversation with Matt Cooper. This turned out to be a lie, frankly. He had told this to Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary. He had told it to President Bush. This had been his story again and again. And he was finally caught in a lie, and now his attorney realized it. So Rove willingly asked to go back to the grand jury and correct the information. And on that basis alone, I believe he escaped a perjury indictment.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: You also talk in your book about Rove’s relationship to the judiciary. You say that no other political strategist in history has ever been so deeply indebted to the U.S. Supreme Court, and you talk about a couple of key decisions that went along with what Rove was lobbying for.

CRAIG UNGER: Right, exactly. I mean, there are two United States Supreme Court decisions that are among the two most controversial in history. And one, of course, is in 2000, Bush v. Gore, and the Supreme Court, by a five-to-four margin, effectively appointed Rove’s candidate president of the United States. And again in 2010, also by a five-to-four majority, the Citizens United decision opened the gateway for the super PACs and for the billion dollars Rove controls today.

And Rove has always known this, I think, about the judiciary—excuse me. InTexasin—back in the ’80s, he started taking over the Texas Supreme Court, and he flipped it from heavily Democratic to heavily Republican. He did the same inAlabama. A lot of people don’t realize he had a real power base inAlabama. And he played a key role in the appointment ofU.S.attorneys. And it’s also—one of his clients was John Ashcroft ofMissouri, and Rove made—got him appointed attorney general of theUnited States.

AMY GOODMAN: And he was one of the names being mentioned if Akin were to pull out.

CRAIG UNGER: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: We only have a minute to go. As you wrote this book, as you wrote Boss Rove, what most surprised you? What do you think it’s most important to understand about this man who has now become perhaps the most powerful political operative inAmerica?

CRAIG UNGER: Well, I think it’s the enduring aspect of the changes. We see it in the Siegelman going to jail, that this is—this started over 10 years ago with Siegelman, and now he’s going to jail perhaps for eight years. I just think it’s an absolute travesty. And Siegelman is just one example out of dozens and dozens. So, you have what I think are real threats to democracy that have a lasting power, and with things like the voter suppression drive, that these—a lot of these issues are real threats to democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: Craig Unger, we want to thank you very much for being with us, author of Boss Rove: Inside Karl Rove’s Secret Kingdom of Power. It hits the bookshelves on September 4th. He’s contracting editor at Vanity Fair, where you can read an excerpt [7] from Boss Rove. We’ll link to it on our website.

That does it for the show. We’ll be broadcasting two-hour specials every day from the Republican and Democratic conventions.

 

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/look-whos-covertly-controlling-gop-karl-rove-scheming-election-theft-and-raising

Links:
[1] http://www.democracynow.org/
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/amy-goodman
[3] http://www.alternet.org/authors/craig-unger-0
[4] http://www.democracynow.org/2009/1/28/obama_to_face_test_on_executive
[5] http://www.democracynow.org/2008/12/22/republican_it_specialist_dies_in_plane
[6] http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/06/opinion/what-i-didn-t-find-in-africa.html
[7] http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/2012/09/karl-rove-gop-craig-unger
[8] http://www.alternet.org/tags/rove
[9] http://www.alternet.org/tags/politics-0
[10] http://www.alternet.org/tags/pac

Right wing operatives

The Massive Republican Campaign to Sabotage the Affordable Care Act by Bob Cesca, HuffingtonPost.com, 11/20/2013 … This is serious business: the well-financed, broadly implemented sabotage campaign designed to rig the law for failure, while also making it more difficult for Americans to receive insurance. Sabotaging the Website…Hackers have attempted more than a dozen cyber attacks against the Obamacare website…Sabotaging the Medicaid Expansion…Americans for Prosperity, funded by Charles and David Koch, launched advertising campaignsSabotaging ACA Marketplace Enrollment…All roads lead back to the Kochs. There’s something especially visceral and sinister about well-protected billionaires telling middle class Americans to go without health insurance… if not enough people enroll in the exchanges, the law entirely falls apart. Combined with everything else, that’s sabotage, plain and simple…

Meet the Evangelical Cabal Orchestrating the Shutdown by Lee Fang, This post first appeared in The Nation, posted on BillMoyers.com, October 9, 2013

Republicans Facing a Test of Unity By ASHLEY PARKER, New York Times,  September 26, 2013 — conservative advocacy groups have emerged as central players — exerting outsize influence, investing tremendous time and resources.… number of key conservative organizations…ForAmerica, a Tea Party group…Heritage Actionthe political arm of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research organization… Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group backed by the Koch brothers… The Club for Growth…Senate Conservatives Fund

The Ten Hardline Conservatives Pulling the Strings of the GOP Shutdown by BillMoyers.com Staff, October 11, 2013 – Much of the coverage of the government showdown has focused on a relatively small group of hardline conservatives within the Republican caucus who have backed their party’s leaders into a fight they didn’t want. As Ryan Lizza noted in The New Yorker, these lawmakers mostly represent very safe, heavily Republican and disproportionately white districts that don’t look much like the rest of the country. Many of those on the front lines are recent arrivals to Capitol Hill, and they’re pushing a leadership they see as having been too willing to compromise with Democrats in the past. It’s an important angle… If there’s only a relatively small group of lawmakers who think defunding the law is a dandy idea… Why is this supposedly silent majority of Republicans so docile? Why don’t they push back? The answer lies in the clout wielded by an extensive web of non-governmental conservative groups supported by mountains of dark money. Those groups see the Affordable Care Act as an existential threat to their worldview and their party and have waged a multipronged campaign to kill it in its cradle…Shortly after President Obama started his second term, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III gathered in the capital to plot strategy… “blueprint to defunding Obamacare,” signed by Mr. Meese and leaders of more than three dozen conservative groups. It articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans — including their cautious leaders — into cutting off financing for the entire federal government. With a broad, well-funded campaign, these groups have effectively shifted the balance of power in conservative Washington away from Republican leaders on the Hill and onto a cadre of true believers who will go to any length to destroy a modest set of health care reforms that, just 20 years ago, the very same conservative movement was itself advancing. So just looking at the rank-and-file members of the “suicide caucus” isn’t enough – it’s like focusing on the marionette rather than the puppet-master. View Interactive: Who’s pulling the strings?

Michael Needham: The Strategist Behind the Shutdown By STEPHEN MOORE, Wall Street Journal, October 11, 2013 – The 31-year-old Stanford business grad [president of Heritage Action, the lobbying arm of the nation's largest conservative think tank] explains how he outmaneuvered GOP leaders and why he thinks House Republicans can defund ObamaCare…Though Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is the public face of the high-risk strategy to “defund” ObamaCare, the masterminds behind it are a new generation of young conservatives, chief among them Mr. Needham. From a tactical view, the strategy has been deployed with precision…Needham is not apologetic at all for the shutdown that he sees as regrettable but necessary collateral damage if it focuses the public on the horrors of the health-care law…Mr. Needham and another young activist, Tim Chapman, wrote the business plan for Heritage Action four years ago. The idea was to tap Heritage’s network of conservative donors across the country and create a political lobbying machine to carry conservative ideas across the goal line. “The strategy from day one once it [ACA] passed was repeal, repeal, repeal,” Mr. Needham says… Mr. Needham’s new boss at Heritage is Jim DeMint, the former South Carolina senator whose former aides populate the staff of Sen. Cruz and other conservative groups and work closely with Mr. Needham. Mr. Needham is…conservative to the core, uncompromising and skilled in the smash-mouth politics now played in Washington. His first job was as research assistant…for Heritage founder Ed Feulner…Needham’s new boss at Heritage is Jim DeMint, the former South Carolina senator whose former aides populate the staff of Sen. Cruz and other conservative groups and work closely with Mr. Needham. Mr. Feulner was famous for preaching that “in the war of ideas there is no room for pacifists,” and Mr. Needham has taken those words to heart. To his admirers, he has pushed the Republicans to show backbone and stand up for principle. His detractors, many of them inside the party, denounce him as everything from cocky to a GOP wrecking ball…The concern of many Republicans, including strategist Karl Rove, is that Heritage Action’s take-no-prisoners approach is hurting the party. The latest Gallup poll shows the GOP is viewed favorably by only 28% of Americans, down 10 points since September…

Inside Groundswell: Read the Memos of the New Right-Wing Strategy Group Planning a “30 Front War”

Look Who’s Covertly Con­trol­ling the GOP By Amy Good­man. Craig Unge, Democ­racy Now!   Alternet.org, August 22, 2012   [Karl Rove] Karl Rove, Schem­ing Elec­tion Theft and Rais­ing a For­tune for Vicious Attack Ads, Democ­racy Now! [1] / By Amy Good­man [2], Craig Unger [3]  posted on Alternet.org, August 22, 2012AG… Karl Rove has become the ulti­mate party boss.…CU:… it’s worth going back to how he got power back in the 1980s [in] ­Texas…to show Karl Rove’s power dur­ing the Bush years… in 2000…in O­hio in 2004…Rove did a lot of things that were sort of under the radar and that I think have endur­ing con­se­quences, and they rep­re­sent real threats to democ­racy…I don’t think he’s an ide­o­logue. I think he’s about win­ning….There’s always been this talk of a per­ma­nent Repub­li­can major­ity that Rove is try­ing to forge, and he sees it, the nation, as being entirely Repub­li­can….…Karl Rove barely escaped indict­ment and rose to be the biggest pow­er­house, polit­i­cal pow­er­house, in Amer­ica today…the Valerie Plame scan­dal…Joe Wil­son…Sad­dam Hus­sein…Pres­i­dent Bush’s State of the Union address that called for war against and launched the war again­st I­raq. And the alle­ga­tions, of course, were not just false, but they were based on forged doc­u­ments…this showed that they would stop at noth­ing to main­tain their nar­ra­tive…it’s most impor­tant to under­stand about this man who has now become per­haps the most pow­er­ful polit­i­cal oper­a­tive in America…

Grover Norquist, Enemy of the State? By Thom Hartmann, AlterNet, November 26, 2012 – Is it possible that Grover Norquist, the multi-millionaire K-Street lobbyist long funded by billionaires, is an enemy of the state?…he has connived over the years to get hundreds of members of Congress to violate their own oath of office by pledging a higher oath to keep billionaires’ taxes low than their pledge to the Constitution itself….

And the Constitution, to which they take the Modern Oath, explicitly says that Congress has the explicit power to impose taxes, both to pay for our defense and to provide for the General Welfare of the nation…So, how is it possible that, when the Constitution explicitly says that one of the specific jobs of Congress is to “lay and collect taxes,” and the oath they take explicitly says that they take will do so “without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion,” that a member of Congress could possibly swear an oath to a multimillionaire K-Street lobbyist to refuse to perform one of their Constitutional duties?

…Is not a man who essentially uses threats – blackmail – that billionaire money will be used to politically destroy members of Congress who refuse to sign his pledge an enemy of the state itself – or at least an enemy of the very Constitution that lawmakers have sworn to uphold without mental reservation or evasion?

Grover Norquist has led hundreds of Republican lawmakers to the brink of treason, swearing to him that they will carry into office mental reservations about the taxation power the Constitution gives them.  It’s high time to de-throne Grover, and let Congress go back to doing its Constitutionally-mandated  job of taking care of the nation’s defense and general welfare, instead of just looking out for the nation’s defense contractors and cranky billionaires.

Pundits and politicians contend for the soul of the Republican party by Paul Harris, Guardian/UK, November 12, 2012 – A civil war is brewing in the GOP – between the realists who have to get elected and the ultras in the conservative media…the fascinating element of this sure-to-be-brutal conflict lies not in the opposing arguments, but in the make-up of each side. For long years, buoyed by Fox News and a legion of talk radio shockjocks, the conservative media and its allies in radical think tanks have been an integral part of the Republican party…internet scribe Matt Drudge, radio host Rush Limbaugh and anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist…Steve Deace, a radio host in Iowa…Bryan Fischer, a radio host with the American Family Association…Limbaugh…Herman Cain…What do these people all have in common? No one elects them.They are pundits and firebrands whose very existence relies on stirring up the base. That is where they get readers, listeners and donors. These people do not fear election losses. They thrive on them. Opposition suits their purpose…Among the GOP’s elected representatives – and its more traditional elites – there is a sudden outbreak of moderation.…it is not really a battle between two sets of warring politicians. Instead, it is a fight between politicians and pundits. It is policy versus talking points, voters versus ratings. Even Democrats should hope the politicians win.

Lee Atwater’s Infamous 1981 Interview on the Southern Strategy

Norquist still calling cadence in GOP ranks

Pundits and politicians contend for the soul of the Republican party

Is Karl Rove Losing It?

Deconstructing a Demagogue By Timothy Egan, New York Times, January 26, 2012 (Newt Gingrich)

Grover Norquist, the Enforcer by Drake Bennett, Business Week, May 26, 2011

Koch Brothers: Secretive Billionaires With Eye on 2012 by Ed Pilkington, The Guardian/UK November 7, 2011

Newt Gingrich: The Indispensable Republican By John H. Richardson, Esquire, September 2010

Rove Rides Again Bush’s former strategist is secretly seizing control of the GOP – and amassing $135 million to destroy the Democrats by Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone magazine, May 27, 2010

Secrets of the Tea Party: The Troubling History of Tea Party Leader Dick Armey by Beau Hodal, Truthout, March 26, 2010

Zev Chafets’s ‘Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One,’ reviewed by David Frum, Special to The Washington Post, May 25, 2010

The Rove Presidency - Karl Rove’s Life and Political Career by Joshua Green, The Atlantic, September 2007

Karl Rove’s Split Personality by Todd S. Purdum, Vanity Fair magazine, December 2006

Meet Mr. Republican: Jack Abramoff by Matt Taibbi, Rollingstone.com, March 24, 2006

 

Inside Groundswell: Read the Memos of the New Right-Wing Strategy Group Planning a “30 Front War”

Who Are You Going To Believe: Karl Rove Or Your Lying Eyes? by Paul Blumenthal

HuffingtonPost.com,  05/07/2012 

WASHINGTON — Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, the political ad-buying organization cofounded by Republican strategist Karl Rove in 2010, has officially submitted its first tax forms with the Internal Revenue Service, and as expected, the group is formally requesting that the IRS treat it as a nonprofit operating under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code. 

But that’s a tricky proposition for a group that spends the vast majority of its money on ads decrying one political candidate or another. 

The hitch is that the tax code says 501(c)(4) groups “must be operated exclusively to promote social welfare” — the promotion of which “does not include direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.” 

Rove depends on Crossroad GPS getting that 501(c)(4) status for one reason. Avowedly political groups, like Crossroads GPS’ sister organization, the American Crossroads Super PAC, have to disclose their donors; 501(c)(4) groups don’t (although that could be changing). 

In order to promise anonymity to donors giving tens of millions — sometimes $10 million at a time — Rove and his colleagues called Crossroads GPS a “policy and grassroots advocacy” organization.

The group insists that most of the ads the organization produces comprise “issue advocacy” rather than political campaign activity. It argues that since less than 50 percent of its budget goes to what it terms “direct” political spending, the group qualifies as being primarily” a social welfare group. 

The big question the IRS will have to address, therefore, is whether the ads that Crossroads GPS and similar groups call “issue advocacy” ads are, in fact, “on behalf or in opposition to any candidate for public office.” 

That would include ads like one attacking Democratic Virginia Senate candidate Tim Kaine for being “Obama’s partisan cheerleader,” or one savaging Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who at the time was running for reelection, for having “sold out to Obama,” or one attacking progressive Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren for, of all things, siding with big banks. 

The Federal Election Commission’s hair-splitting rules allow Crossroads GPS to make the argument that these sorts of ads aren’t exactly the same as campaign ads. According to the FEC rules, in fact, advertisements from outside groups are only considered reportable as “independent expenditures” if they are “expressly advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate.” For the FEC, that involves literally using one of the magic words such as “elect” or “vote against” in their ad. 

Over the years, political groups have interpreted that to mean that as long as they avoid those particular words, they can pretty much get away with anything — at least as far as the FEC is concerned. 

So Crossroads GPS will end a blistering attack ad on a Democratic federal candidate in a swing state not with an encouragement to vote them out of office — which would be reportable — but with an incitement of some sort, for example, calling the candidate to complain about their position on an issue. 

That little dodge lets them fly under the FEC’s radar. But the IRS, rather than drawing or adhering to the FEC’s distinctions, is supposed to use what’s called a “facts and circumstances” test to determine if someone is breaking the rules. In this case, that means using common sense. 

More than 50 percent of Crossroads GPS’ budget goes toward these ads. On its 2010 tax form, the group reported using $15.5 million for “direct” political spending and $8.2 million for “grassroots issue advocacy” — out of $42 million total. 

To bolster its “social welfare” creds, it also donated more than $15 million to politically active charitable groups, ostensibly earmarked for non-political purposes. 

On its 2011 tax form, it reported spending $18.9 million on issue advocacy and $1.6 million on direct political activity — out of $22 million total. 

American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS spokesman Jonathan Collegio would not explain to The Huffington Post the origin of those numbers. “Crossroads carefully analyzes each of its ads to determine their status, and categorizes them accordingly,” he responded in an email. 

But the amount listed for “direct political activity” in 2010 is nearly identical to how much Crossroads GPS reported in “independent expenditures” to the FEC that year, here and here. 

Therefore, it’s reasonable to discern that any ad not reported to the FEC was considered by the group to be “issue advocacy.” 

The acknowledged political activity adds up to 26 percent of its total budget in both years. The “advocacy” ads total 42 percent. So if the IRS concludes that the advocacy ads are really political campaign ads, then Crossroads GPS would not qualify for (c)(4) status. And that’s even if the under-50-percent standard for political spending is being used; some reformers argue that anything more than 5 or 10 percent should be disqualifying for a (c)(4). 

If a group acts like a (c)(4) — for instance, by not disclosing its donors — but then gets its status denied or revoked, tax experts say the consequences can be severe, including fines of up to 70 percent of the money they raised and spent in secret. The groups might even have to make donors’ names public after all. 

Reform groups have been pressuring the IRS to enforce its rules for months — and recently hailed some faint signs that the IRS might be preparing to take action related to bogus (c)(4)s. 

But the biggest thing in Rove’s and the organization’s favor, is that these policies are not likely to be resoIved before the 2012 election — a race in which Crossroads GPS and its sister group have said they intend to spend $300 million to elect Republicans.
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