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Friday, February 11, 2011

Koch and Crossroads

At Politico, Kenneth P. Vogel and Ben Smith point to a rift between the Crossroads approach to politics and that of ideological activists:

In fact, as the annual Conservative Political Action Conference meets this week in Washington and conservatives assess the state of their movement, the Koch network of nonprofit groups, once centered on sleepy free-enterprise think tanks, seems to be emerging as a more ideological counterweight to the independent Republican political machine conceived by Bush-era GOP operatives Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie before the 2010 midterm elections.

The aggressive embrace of political activism by the Koch brothers, Charles and David, has cheered fiscal conservatives, who hope they will reorient the conservative political apparatus around free-market, small government principles and candidates, and away from the electability-over-principles approach they see Rove and Gillespie as embodying.


Technically, the Kochs don’t control any groups, rather they exert significant influence through their contributions, board positions and patronage of the leaders of outfits that have been prominently featured at their donor conferences, such as Americans for Prosperity and Themis, a fledgling voter micro-targeting initiative spearheaded by former Koch staffer Karl Crow that in some ways seems designed to compete with an effort launched last year by the Rove and Gillespie-backed Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies.


While Koch-linked operatives communicated with representatives of the Crossroads groups and affiliated outfits during the midterms, an anonymous Republican fundraiser complained to NBC’s Michael Isikoff that during regular conference calls between the groups to coordinate midterm election spending plans, representatives of Koch-backed groups were reluctant to share information.

At the January 2010 Koch donor meeting, though, Noble and Gillespie sat on a panel together analyzing the coming midterm elections. Entitled “the opportunity of 2010: understanding voter attitudes and the electoral map,” the panel also featured the AFP director Pope and veteran GOP operative Jim Ellis, who had been indicted in 2005 on campaign finance charges , for which he is awaiting an April trial, in connection with his work for ex-House Republican Leader Tom Delay, who this year was convicted of campaign violations.

In the weeks before this year’s Rancho Mirage meeting, Ellis crafted a 501(c)4 proposal for Noble seeking $4.75 million for a group that would spread anti-Obama messages in key states in the run-up to the 2012 presidential race.