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Saturday, September 18, 2010

American Crossroads: Steven Law Speaks

The Wall Street Journal reports on American Crossroads president and CEO Steven Law, who notes the network of outside groups that has long helped the Democrats:

"I think the Democrats figured out how to collaborate and coordinate their efforts in a way that we'd never seen on the Republican side outside of the party apparatus," he says. "They were very intentional about sharing plans, and information, and data."


Mr. Law says American Crossroads, which launched in April, will do much more this fall than just TV ads, phone banks and direct mail. It will conduct polls and opposition research, conduct "industrial-strength" voter turnout activities and an absentee-ballot program. The organization will target 11 key Senate races. But it will also be active in up to two dozen House seats, though on the House side it's coordinating with other outside groups so "our dollars go farther," Mr. Law says. The organization is barred by law from comparing strategy notes with a particular candidate or campaign.


Mr. Law says he "got to know organized labor fairly well" during his tenure as a deputy labor secretary in the Bush administration. "I was quite impressed by their courage, their dedication, their boldness, their willingness to put it all on the line to elect people who supported their political agenda," he says. "Frankly they were much bolder and more dedicated than some in the business community, which is why they continue to be successful in advancing their agenda when the political winds are against them."

Most of American Crossroads' money comes from large individual donations. And despite Mr. Obama's semi-hysterical fulminations about a "corporate takeover of our democracy," Mr. Law says that "you don't see large publicly traded businesses rushing pell-mell into overt political activity, and I think its unlikely to happen." Corporate America wants to protect its brands and avoid political retribution; "executives understandably want to get along with everybody," he says.

On the other hand, "You compare that to the unions where their future longevity and prosperity depends significantly on government," and it is clear that "unions not only invest dramatically more in politics but they do it very publicly, and in a very sophisticated and intentional manner. After the 2008 election Andy Stern of the SEIU boasted that they had gone $10 million in debt to buy more TV ads. There's not a public corporation in America that could get away with doing that."