Democrats have targeted their longtime nemesis Karl Rove as the mastermind behind the tens of millions of dollars of ads from independent groups attacking their candidates this fall, but maybe they should have listened more carefully when Rove recently told the audience of Rush Limbaugh’s radio show about “one of the smartest people in politics you’ve never heard of.”
In fact, Carl Forti, the low-key career Republican operative Rove was talking about, may be the figure most intricately involved in the outside groups transforming the 2010 election season with a deluge of hard-hitting ads.
Together, the four groups have spent $33 million on sharp-edged television advertising boosting Republicans personally and pillorying them for supporting the stimulus, the Democratic health care overhaul and other initiatives pushed by President Barack Obama.
“Carl is a strategic political warrior. He knows issues, he knows polling, and he knows how to implement complicated strategies,” says Bradley Blakeman, a veteran GOP operative who calls Forti “the Alexander the Great of the Republican independent expenditure world.” (See: Arena Profile: Bradley A. Blakeman)
Marc A. Thiessen writes at The Washington Post:
The accusations that foreign corporations are funding Republican attack ads have been widely panned. Even President Obama and his top aides have admitted they have no proof to back their allegations against the Chamber and conservative campaign groups such as American Crossroads (Obama said the Chamber's money "could" be coming from foreign-owned corporations but "we don't know.") Now the Democrats' calls for investigations into these groups could backfire -- leading to closer scrutiny of the sources of funding for Democratic attack ads. Labor unions are spending millions to tar Republican candidates -- and they take in far more foreign cash than the Chamber. If the GOP takes control of Congress, investigations into how organized labor funds its political efforts could be forthcoming.
The U.S. Chamber says it receives about $100,000 from its affiliates abroad (out of an operating budget of about $200 million), none of it used for political campaigns. Compare that to one of the largest labor unions in America, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which is spending lavishly to elect Democrats. The SEIU claims 100,000 members in Canada. According to SEIU's 2008 constitution, dues include $7.65 per month per member that must be sent to the SEIU International in the United States. This means that the SEIU takes in nearly $9.2 million per year from foreign nationals -- almost 10 times the amount the Chamber receives from its affiliates abroad.