Outside Groups in Congressional Races
At RealClearPolitics, Caitlin Huey-Burns writes that Super PACs and 501 groups are playing a big part in congressional races. She gives the example of Crossroads GPS, which recently sent out a press release accusing several Democratic senators of embracing "the Washington insider culture." Crossroads, she points out, is much leaner than the party committees, with just 16 paid staffers.
"What's basically happening is candidates and parties are losing control of messaging," says former Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, who served as National Republican Congressional Committee chairman. "It's the law of unintended consequences on steroids. It has heightened the ideological polarization of the parties."
"The super PACs are taking over; they are the parties," says Paul Wilson, whose firm, Wilson-Grand Communications, worked with American Crossroads in the 2010 cycle. "It is just far easier to be a super PAC and make the decision swiftly and decisively and early, and the traditional party structure is ill-equipped. . . . The system is just very strange right now."
She quotes Jonathan Collegio about the relationship of between the party committees and the outside groups.
"We can never be involved in the strategy for the campaign," says Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for Crossroads who also spent some time on the official side as press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee in the 2006 cycle.
The prohibited coordination has caused both the official party committees and outside groups to be more transparent about their strategies, says one Republican operative. Last cycle, for example, Crossroads announced to the press that it was going to end its involvement in the Missouri Senate race, hoping to tip off the NRSC. "A lot of communication that had been done privately in years past now has to be done publicly though the news media. We were sending smoke signals," says Collegio.
"The best response to a negative ad is a response ad with the candidate talking to the camera, which is something that an outside group can never do," says Collegio.