It's not much of a war room, but who cares? After an election cycle in which slick Republican super PACs like American Crossroads and Restore Our Future were panned for spending hundreds of millions of dollars on television ads that failed to move the needle, America Rising is a leaner, meaner outfit with one mission and one mission only: opposition research on Democrats.
"Conservative donors are more skeptical and want to be more educated about where their money is going, which will benefit America Rising because they are like the sniper shot instead of the shotgun blast that throws all the ads up against the wall," said David Bossie, president of Citizens United, the conservative advocacy group whose Supreme Court case opened the floodgates for super PACS by allowing unlimited donations. "One of the things we were missing in 2012 was a really terrific research operation."
Through old-school public record searches and new-media wizardry, America Rising is vetting and tracking Democratic candidates in search of that hypocritical nugget, policy flip-flop or embarrassing gaffe. Those hits can be posted online or leaked to media outlets at little cost and then picked up by other groups that can generate television ads, phone calls or direct mail. America Rising also has a limited liability company that will sell its research to Republican groups; Crossroads and Citizens United have already signed on as clients.
Until it finds permanent office space, America Rising's weekly brainstorming sessions are being held in a conference room of an Arlington apartment building where two staffers live. Seven men and one woman, all between the ages of 23 and 31, sat Friday morning around a glass-topped table. They relished some recent successes: its anti-Clinton initiative was picked up by CNN and a tax complaint filed against Massachusetts Senate candidate Ed Markey was reported by The Daily Caller and The Boston Herald. A couple negative stories about McAuliffe have also been planted. "I think we had a really good week," said Pounder, resisting a box of donuts in the middle of the table.
Other matters: Someone needs to fill in for the tracker in Virginia, whose mother is sick. The Virginia Democratic Party's annual fundraiser, which will be attended by McAuliffe and headlined by Vice President Joe Biden, is likely to provide fodder for future attacks. "Those are two of the biggest buffoons in the Democratic Party, so we should definitely do something," says one staffer. Also on the to-do list: a trip to the National Archives to pull McAuliffe's lobbying records and closely review the 2012 press conference unveiling his electric car company in Mississippi.